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Ginger Made: Effortless Cardigan, or, the Cozy Grandpa

OH, HEY, LOOK, IT’S SNOWING AGAIN! YAYYYYYY UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…..  Guys.  Enough with this winter.  ENOUGH.  I’m standing on a two-foot snowbank here, or at least, what I’m hoping is a two-foot snowbank and not a pile of trash covered in snow.  (Fun fact: in NYC, at least in the outer boroughs, garbage trucks are used as snowplows, so it’s been weeks [WEEKS!] since the garbage has been picked up.  Luckily you and your neighbors get to eyeball everyone’s leavings and speculate about their Coke/beer/gallon-jug-of-olive-oil consumption.  Seriously, how do those people down the block have MULTIPLE gallon drums of olive oil in their trash?  Do they drink it instead of morning coffee?)

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

If there’s a silver bullet for lousy weather, it’s knitwear!  There’s something so comforting about a hand-knitted sweater, isn’t there?  It’s the perfect antidote for February sadness.  I’m not a very fast knitter, but it’s fun to do during long evenings (and means that all the hours I’ve spent watching Torchwood this winter aren’t a total waste).

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

First things first, this squishy Berroco Vintage was a gift from the lovely and talented Stephanie at Makes the Things!  She offered to send me some goodies that she was destashing, and I gratefully snapped them up!  It’s not a color that I would have chosen myself, but I thought it would look great with my ever-present blue jeans.  Now that it’s done, I really like the color!  As an added bonus, it looks nice with my Bough hat!  Thank you SO MUCH, Steph!

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

I’d never used Vintage, which is a blend of wool, acrylic, and nylon, and I wasn’t sure how well it would react to blocking (since natural fibers block happily, but man-mades generally don’t), so I wanted to avoid a project with cables or lace.  Hannah Fettig’s Effortless Cardigan is a super popular pattern, but I wasn’t the least bit interested in it until I saw Ping’s oh-so-gorgeous version.  She described her sweater as a “wearable blanket”… ummmmm, yes, please!  I knew immediately after seeing her cardigan that this yarn would become one.

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

It’s a top-down raglan cardigan with acres of stockinette, so it was pretty straightforward knitting.  It came together quickly- I knit the majority of it over my Christmas vacation, and finished the rest in spare moments here and there.  It actually blocked nicely, which was a pleasant surprise.  I HATED how it looked when I finished knitting it- the ribbing looked so gross- but everything smoothed out after a serious wet blocking.  I lengthened the body by 1″ and the sleeves by 0.5″, but I wish I’d lengthened the sleeves more.  It’s not the end of the world, though.  Those were the only alterations I made.

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

I asked Man Friend if I looked like someone’s grandpa when I was wearing this, and he replied, “A little bit… but, a cozy grandpa”.  I guess I don’t mind looking like a cozy grandpa!

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

What are you guys up to lately?  Friends in the Northern Hemisphere, are you busy knitting?  What are the rest of you up to?  I’ve been sewing and sewing and sewing lately, but between secret pattern testing, sewing for a friend, a future Mood Sewing Network project, and a slew of started-but-not-finished projects, I don’t have anything sew-y to show you.  Hopefully I’ll have some finished garments (and some organization in my sewing space) coming up soon!

Effortless Cardigan by Ginger Makes

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Ginger Made: Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress!

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

OK, remember wayyyyyyy back in October when my neighbor spied me photographing baby dresses and requested a dress for her granddaughter?  No, because that was OCTOBER and now it’s February?  I don’t blame you.  Well, I finally made it, and what I lack in promptness I hopefully make up for in cuteness-of-dress.

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

Sophia is 8, and she stopped by my apartment one day when she was visiting her gram for measurements.  She didn’t know why she was getting them taken, so when I told her I was making her a dress, her face lit up with a huge smile that nearly melted my heart.  When I asked her what she liked in a dress, she uttered just one word, “PINK!”  So this is suuuuuper pink!  Hopefully she’ll love it!

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

Historically I’ve not been that excited about kids’ sewing, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this project.  Someone suggested (Andrea, maybe?) that I find some fabric that I love but can’t really get away with wearing, so that’s what I did.  It was really fun to pick out something for a little girl, and seriously, I wish I could wear this print!  Prints like this are totally absent from the Garment District, so I ordered this from Etsy on sale.  It’s Briar Rose by Heather Ross.  It reminded me of a treasured pair of Strawberry Shortcake gym shoes that I had as a little girl (and kind of wish were still in my closet!).

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

I used the Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress pattern.  It’s really cute, and isn’t that fitted, which I liked since I wouldn’t be able to have Sophia try it on while I was making it.  I first saw this pattern during the Super Online Sewing Match on Sew Mama Sew- you can see the contestants’ fantastic versions here!  The name reminded me of skating on quads to the Ghostbusters theme song with my aunt and her high school boyfriend (don’t be a pervert, she was in high school, too, you weirdo!), so that was an automatic plus.  It’s kind of an expensive pattern, so hopefully I’ll have a reason to use it again down the road.

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

The dress goes together easily, so that’s a major plus.  You have to sew pretty carefully around the steep curves in the sleeves and the neck facing, so I couldn’t go at my usual pedal-to-the-metal pace, but that’s fine.  The dress is fully lined with a soft pink shirting from Chic Fabrics, and the finishing is really clean and neat.  I made view B (with the contrasting neck facing), used a covered button (covered by Man Friend!) for the back closure, and added a bow to the front using Tilly’s tutorial.  The only thing that annoyed me was that it took forever to mark the stitching lines for the elastic casing on the front of the dress, and by the time I was ready to sew them, the chalk had rubbed off, so I had to mark it again.  No one’s fault, but I wanted to complain, OK?  I’m also a little bit irked because I didn’t notice the print was directional when I was cutting, so the front has the stems facing up and the back has the stems facing down.  I’m guessing no one will notice… but if someone DOES notice, it will probably drive them crazy!

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

I really got into this dress as I was making it.  It was fun to think about what might make an 8-year-old happy.  I hope she loves the dress and feels really special every time she wears it!

Oliver + S Roller Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

Can you remember any favorite outfits from your childhood?  Any special dresses that made you feel like a million bucks?  Is there any chance that it’s socially acceptable for a woman in her thirties to wear a strawberry-print dress in Pepto-Bismol pink?

Oliver + S Roler Skate Dress by Ginger Makes

A wee strawberry button!

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Ginger Made: Jungle-icious Plantain T-Shirt!

Hey, there, preening pumas!  Hope you are all well!  After finishing my coat project, I was in the mood for a simple sew, and I also wanted to get in on the Jungle January fun.  I’ve been LOVING all the fun animal-print projects populating my blogroll these days– keep up the good work, duders!

Deer & Doe Plantain T-shirt by Ginger MakesThis leopard-print sweater knit has been hanging out in my stash for a while, and I knew as soon as Jungle January 2 was announced that I wanted to bring it fabric to life!  I bought it at Fabrics for Less for some crazy low price, but this is reallllly similar, if you fancy a gaudy garment as well.  The pattern was an obvious choice, too.  It’s the new (and FREE!) Deer & Doe Plantain T-shirt– go and download it, if you haven’t already!

Deer & Doe Plantain T-shirt by Ginger Makes

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Ginger, this is pretty deplorably tacky, but, somehow, I expected you to bring it a little harder during Jungle January”.  I’m sorry, guys, but I decided to exercise a little restraint and keep things classy.

Deer & Doe Plantain T-Shirt by Ginger Makes

JUST KIDDING, I DOUBLED DOWN ON THE HOT PINK ANIMAL PRINT.  Look at these truckerlovin’ elbow patches!!!!!  Hot pink tiger!!!!!!!  This fabric came from Girl Charlee (here’s a similar fabric, although I’m sure the one I ordered two years ago is long gone) and was part of a failed garment a while back (tried to make up a woven pattern in a slouchy knit, ended up with Sharpie all over the fabric, tears were shed, etc.).  When the inspiration struck to work this into the top, I tried to calm myself and use basic black for the elbow patches, but I thought to myself, “What would Anne and Heather do?” and then I forged ahead with my unholy animal-print union.

Deer & Doe Plantain T-Shirt by Ginger Makes

Just casually scratching my head and not at all showing off my ELBOW PATCH OF JOY!

Let’s talk about the pattern for a second.  It’s basically the quickest thing in the world to sew, everything matches up nicely, and, again, it’s FREE!  It’s a departure from my usual style (not sure I’ve ever worn anything with a scoop-neck), so I don’t need a whole closet full of these or anything, but it looks like something my mom and sister would wear all the time, so I’m planning several versions for them.

Deer & Doe Plantain T-shirt by Ginger Makes

Luckily I overcame my fear of twin-needling when I was making the Romy Anorak, so it was a breeze to hem.  The only difference was that I needed to lower my tension allllll the way down to avoid tunneling between the stitch lines when I sewed on this sweater knit.  That’s it!  I used my walking foot and a ballpoint needle for the bulk of construction, which worked well.

Deer & Doe Plantain T-shirt by Ginger Makes

Obligatory wild kitty face!

I get really happy whenever I look at these silly elbow patches and I feel like a sort of human nacho dip when I have this on– I’M BRINGING THE PARTY, PEOPLE!  Also, my hubsy-wubsy HATES this, so it will be fun to wear in a sort of gleefully antagonistic way.  Anyway, thanks again to Anne for unleashing the Jungle January beasts, and to Eléonore for the pattern!  Now, what are you guys sewing?  Have you made this pattern?  Are you playing along with Jungle January 2?

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Ginger Made: Style Arc Romy Anorak (Or, the Jacket that Took Forever)!

Yowza! It’s cold out here, people!  I am not on board with this weather!  I left behind snowy New York this week for the even-more-frozen tundras of Vermont.  I am NOT excited about the cold, but I AM excited to finally show you my new jacket!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

This is the Style Arc Romy Anorak pattern, and it’s my January project for the Mood Sewing Network.  I’ve been working on this thing for what feels like the entirety of my life.  OK, it was closer to 2.5 weeks, but between the RTW details, winging it and adding a lining, and attempting to decipher the illustration-less, minimalistic instructions, this one was a real marathon.

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

First things first: this pattern is super cool and I adore the style, but it’s NOT for the faint of heart.  There’s absolutely no hand-holding here– the instructions offer helpful advice like “Make belt loops and attach them”.  They don’t tell or show you how to do this, the pattern piece (one single long strip) doesn’t give you any details, and the placement markings for the side front belt loops aren’t on the pattern piece, so you have to measure/eyeball to figure out where they go.   That’s pretty much par for the course here.  This is at least an intermediate pattern– I would really only recommend it to a confident sewist who doesn’t mind figuring things out on her own.  It didn’t help that I strayed from the instructions and added a lining.  I had to completely change the order of operations to accommodate that, but it was worth it (unlined jackets are kind of pointless in my climate).

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

OK, some more pattern details: it has raglan sleeves with darts at the shoulder, which I haven’t seen before but is a nice detail.  There are tucks right above the hem in front and back, and elastic is inserted in the hem so you can cinch it in if you like.  The zipper is hidden behind a fly guard, which feels very RTW to me.  If you’re not familiar with Style Arc, their patterns come in a single size.  I wasn’t super stressed about this because I’m pretty close to a straight size and this isn’t a very fitted style.  I made this without any alterations and the fit is roomy, but works for the style.  If you make this yourself, check the zipper and button placement and make sure it works for you.  I followed the diagrams for zipper and fly guard placement, but it feels backwards to me– when I try to button up the collar, it’s really awkward and hard to do.

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

ARRRRGGHHHHHH CAN’T GET BUTTON ASGSKOSDIFHGAJDKLFJKSJDGFXDKFLJDFK

While I’ve really been digging the trend of slouchy anoraks that all the cool Brooklyn babes seem to be wearing lately, I’m not super into the ubiquitous olive green that seems to be the only color these jackets come in.  Instead I opted for a nice medium gray cotton twill.  I love twill– it’s my go-to fabric for hard-wearing, good-looking garments.  I love how it looks when it starts to show some wear and tear.  Because twill weaves fray easily, I serged all the seams, even though they would be hidden under the lining. It’s a nice precaution to help extend the life of your jacket. I topstitched all the seams with a twin needle (OMG, WHY WAS I SO SCARED TO USE A TWIN NEEDLE?!  It’s stupid easy!), which gives it a RTW look and also adds some stability.

Style Arc Romy Anorak

You get the idea.

Since I’m the world’s biggest wimp, I added a lining made (mostly) from buffalo check flannel.  It’s so warm and cozy! The sleeves are made out of black bemberg rayon– I get nervous that I’ll rip my lining putting on the jacket if the sleeves aren’t slippery! Since brushed fabrics have a tendency to pill over time, I made the lining with the unbrushed side of the flannel facing out. It’s still beautifully soft, but should stay in great condition longer.  I basically made a second version of the shell and basted it to the neckline and center front before stitching on the collar and fly guard.  I made a booboo when I was cutting it out and forgot to add a CB pleat in the lining, so after consulting the experts (the Twitter sewing crowd!) I cut a strip of fabric the length of the back bodice and stitched it in, so no harm no foul.  The lining pieces were all cut at the hem line, so I just pressed the hems up over the lining, enclosing all the raw edges.  I fell stitched the facings and inner collar down with about 488,135 teeny-tiny stitches… my finger and thumb are still sore!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

The pattern calls for the pockets to be made with a box pleat that’s stitched down all the way. I wanted the pocket to expand to hold tons of stuff, so I used an inverted pleat that’s only stitched 2″ from the top and the bottom, so it can sort of bulge out.  I find it annoying to iron under all the seam allowances when I’m making patch pockets, so I opted to line them instead. I cut a second pair of pockets out of the plaid flannel, stitched them together at the sides and bottom, then turned them right-side out, turned under the top seam allowance, and edge-stitched all around. This makes for nice, neat pockets, plus my hands will stay warm in happy flannel-lined pockets!  We allllll know how much I love flannel-lined pockets!  (Sidebar: Can someone please make sure my coffin is lined in flannel?  Oops, got a little morbid there… but still– MAKE IT HAPPEN).

Moving on…

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

I wanted this to look very clean and RTW, so I used brushed antique nickel jeans buttons from Taylor Tailor that I had in my stash, a matching separating zipper, and two faux metal toggles at the CF hem. I’m really pleased with the way they look!  Oh, and if you want to get in on the jeans button fun but aren’t sure where to start, here’s a great tutorial from Taylor’s blog (spoiler alert: you get to use a hammer!  In the end I discarded the belt loop pattern piece and just followed this great tutorial from the Coletterie– you don’t have any raw edges, and you don’t have to turn a loop!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

In the end, I’m over the moon about this jacket! It’s just exactly my style! Isn’t that the best thing about sewing? It took forever to make, and even though the pattern was frustrating, it’s so rewarding to sew something that you can actually get away with wearing day in and day out, and that you’ll love wearing all the time!  While I’m thinking about it, if you want some serious jacket inspiration (and envy!), check out Kelly’s gorgeous Minoru!  It’s stunning!

What are you guys sewing these days? Are you sewing for the season, or jumping ahead to the next one? As much as I dislike winter, I’ve still got some cold weather items on the docket to sew before spring sets in. What about you?

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

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Ginger Made: Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap!

What’s up, party dudes?!  This post is a bit out of the ordinary for me– finished knitted garments, what?!  I haven’t done much knitting in the last couple of years, but when I started taking the subway to work a few months ago, I had an itch to pick it up again!

Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

A long time ago, I started up a sweater in Quince & Co.’s Lark in “Honey”.  I didn’t really like how it was turning out, so I frogged it and let it sit.  In my haste to start knitting again, I grabbed this yarn and cast on for Brooklyn Tweed‘s Guernsey Wrap without checking the gauge or anything (bad girl!).  As it turns out, I was knitting at about 20.5 stitches/4″ (instead of the recommended 14 stitches/4″), so my finished width is only 13″ after a serious blocking.  Since it was immediately clear that this would be more of a scarf than a wrap, I added an extra repeat of chart A and chart C for some additional length, making my final scarf 77″ long.  I toyed with the idea of seaming the ends to make a cowl, but it’s nice to be able to wear this as a scarf so I can wrap it tighter or looser depending on my mood (and the weather).  Maybe someday I’ll knit another one to the correct proportions, but I’m not at all disappointed in the outcome with this one.  I was just so excited to start knitting and didn’t want to waste any time with math and calculations!

Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

The yarn was an internet purchase, and I was a little disappointed in the color when it arrived.  That was the main reason I frogged the sweater– I thought the olive-y color looked gross next to my skin tone.  So here I am, two years later, making a hat and scarf to wear right next to my face… go figure!  The only thing I can think of is that maybe it looks better on me now that I’ve started working indoors– I’m much paler than I used to be, and less green! It’s not the most flattering color in the world, but it looks nice with both my grey and my navy coats.  For more inspiration in this color, check out Gail‘s gorgeous sweater here!

Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

Guernsey Wrap is a really nice pattern and was a great one for jumping back into knitting.  It’s a charted pattern, but it’s easy to follow.  It looks really lovely and complicated, but the stitch patterns consist of only knit and purl stitches (great for commuter knitting– no pesky cable needles to deal with!).  I didn’t realize it was so simple when I downloaded it, but I’m so glad I did.  It’s really pretty!

Brooklyn Tweed Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

After I finished the wrap, I wanted a matching hat, so I knit up Brooklyn Tweed‘s gorgeous Bough pattern.  This pattern is so cute and was really fun to make, so much so that I made a second version for my sister in Malabrigo worsted for a Christmas gift (forgot to take a picture of it on her, but it’s really nice in soft, fuzzy Malabrigo!).  I didn’t make any changes to the pattern at all and I really like it (although I might cast on fewer stitches for the ribbing next time around… it’s a tiny bit loose…).  The tree of life pattern is really cool– I’m hoping to make the matching cowl at some point.  I finished off both hats with pompoms made using a large Clover Pom Pom Maker.  I’d never made them before and heard that the pom pom maker was really fast and easy, so I picked one up.  I made huge, fluffy pom poms in just a couple of minutes!  So fun!  I kind of want to make 100 of them and tie them to the pugs!

Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

Gah! Look at that bobble! I love it!

Now that I’ve started knitting again, I’m totally hooked!  I’m midway through a sweater and can’t stop thinking about future knitting projects!  What about you?  Knitting anything things days?  Want to learn, but not sure where to start?  If so, I recommend (again!) checking out Gail’s blog– she did a great series walking you through the (FREE!) Miette cardigan pattern from start to finish.

Bough Hat + Guernsey Wrap-- Ginger Makes

Major benefit of a 6.5′ scarf– you can go full ninja on the coldest days!

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Top 5 of 2013: Reflections, Inspirations, & Goals

Hi, guys!  Hope your New Year’s Eve celebrations are safe and joyous!  My New Year’s Eve’s tend to be quiet and introspective, despite the fact that I’m neither quite nor introspective.  It’s nice to pause in the midst of the holiday madness and reflect on the year past and the year to come– I think I need a little thoughtful time before embarking on another sure-to-be chaotic year!  So today I wanted to share my 2013 reflections, inspirations, and goals.

Reflections: I thought it would be fun to revisit my goals for 2013 and see how I did!

  • Organize my sewing space! Check!  If this was the only goal I accomplished all year, I’d still be happy!  My sewing area was completely and totally out of control, unorganized, and uncomfortable.  We saved up and bought a nice table that has just enough room for my sewing machine, serger, and rotary mat, and I put together a cube storage system for fabric, scraps, UFOs, and odds and ends.  I added a little rolling tray from IKEA for extra storage, and Man Friend gave me a lovely rolling chair for my birthday in November, which really completed the setup.  This setup replaces my previous, ultra-elegant system of two folding card tables and a pile of Mood bags.  I feel SO much saner, happier, and more productive now that I’m not working in the middle of an awful mess.
  • Sew pants!  Total fail– never got around to this.  This year went by at an insane pace, and I never even came close to starting this.
  • Sew a jacket! Check!  I started out 2013 making my Colette Anise jacket.  It was the slowest sewing that I did all year, but it was nice to make something that took more time and care.  I don’t think I’ll ever become a tailoring junkie, but it was fun to make this.  Looking back on this, the fit isn’t perfect (the sleeves are baggier than I wish they were), but it was a great learning project.

  • Identify and make pieces that I’ll reach for over and over again.  Check!  OK, not every garment fits in this category, but I was really excited this summer to hit a stride for a moment when I made 3 or 4 garments close together that really suit my lifestyle and work for me (my Victoria blazer, my Moss Mini skirt, and my Archer shirt).  This will sound really geeky, but it was really thrilling to make things that I would want to buy RTW.
  • Avoid overcommitment! Check minus?  On the one hand, I deserve a check because I opted out of some REALLY super fun sewalongs and pattern testing projects that I wanted to do, but knew in my heart I couldn’t get done.  On the other hand, signing up for a patternmaking class was a colossal failure in the overcommitment department, so maybe I average out to a “C” grade?  While it was sad to skip out on so much fun, I felt much calmer with fewer self-imposed deadlines.
  • Make a sloper!  Check minus again?  This was a #sewingdare from Gillian, and I *sort* of fulfilled it in that I MADE, tested, and drafted from a sloper, but I failed in that the sloper fit a dress form instead of me!  Unfortunately, my patternmaking class made me realize how much tinkering goes into fitting a sloper, even when you draft from careful, careful measurements, so I don’t think I’ll attempt one for myself unless I can find a measuring/fitting buddy who wants to do this together.
  • Sew from my stash!  Check!  Out of 29 projects this year, I sewed 10 garments from my stash.  Considering that 12 projects had to use new fabric (for the Mood Sewing Network), that means I only purchased new fabric for 7 other garments.  Not too bad, although I could do better.  I did a major clear-out of my stash in the spring, so I was left with only pieces that I really love and want to use, so I was thrilled every time I made something with one of these favorites.  I worked hard to shop from my stash for every non-Mood project, but sometimes I just didn’t have anything appropriate.

Stash-busting at its finest!

In some ways, this was a disappointing year for me.  I had a really, really busy year with work, and my patternmaking class in the fall really sucked up an insane amount of time.  I had so many plans this year for fun garments I wanted to make, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

At the same time, this year was really exciting.  I felt for the first time like I was sewing for myself, who I really am.  I had fun thinking about my style and considering which garments would really work for me.  It was also exciting to push myself more and branch out from dresses and tops into jackets and swimwear.  Sometimes it was ugly and messy, but it was nice to keep learning this year.

Inspirations: I’m just so thankful for all of you bloggers who inspire me every day!  Every time I open up my blogroll, I’m just so amazed by what you guys make.  Thanks for being so incredible!

I’m feeling pretty brain-dead at the moment, so I don’t have a list of 5 inspirations, but I wanted to give a special shout-out to Carolyn.  I was lucky enough to get to know her a bit this year, and she is just so inspiring.  She has tons and tons of sewing experience, and is really gracious about sharing her wisdom.  Thanks to her, I now know to keep my eyes peeled in the fabric store for special fabrics and to snatch them up when I see them.  She’s totally right– a fabric like quilted, flannel-back wool completely makes your project!  She was also right when she told me I would regret not buying glazed ponte– even thought I bought it, I regret not buying more!

Goals:

  1. Sew a pair of pants, FOR REAL THIS TIME.  I wear pants.  I like pants.  Time to sew some @#$% pants!
  2. Delve more deeply into outerwear.  I’d like to make a casual, sporty jacket and get more confident sewing that kind of thing.
  3. Use sewing patterns multiple times.  It’s time to slow down my pattern purchases (SO HARD, YOU GUYS) and make things more than once.  It’s much more cost-effective and you don’t have to spend extra time working out fit issues.  WHY DON’T I DO THIS MORE?!  I want to make at least 3 garments next year from patterns I’ve already used before.
  4. Sew at least two garments for Man Friend.  It’s the least I can do!
  5. Make at least one self-drafted garment.  Time to put that patternmaking class to work!

Before I go, I just want to wish every one of you a happy and healthy New Year!  It means so much to me to connect with so many of you through this blog and your own, and I really am so grateful for the many friendships I’ve made through this little world.  Here’s to 2014!

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Top 5 of 2013: Hits & Misses!

It’s back… Gillian‘s Top 5 year-end review round-up!  I really love reading these posts– it’s so fun to hear people analyze their output for the year and I especially love to see everyone’s favorite makes of the year.  I love seeing what makes you happiest about sewing!

Alright, let’s dive right in with the misses!  Rather than specific garments, this time around I wanted to write about some problems that plagued my sewing this year.

Miss #1: Not sewing for my lifestyle. 

Oy, why do I do this?  It’s dumb to make things that don’t work for me, but I still do it all the time.  Take this dress, for example.  There are virtually zero occasions in my life that this is appropriate for.  I wore it once, to a work party, felt pretty silly in it, and managed to rip the lining during a rowdy game of ping-pong.  This was back in June or July, and I haven’t had a real desire or need to fix it, which tells you it’s just not a good fit for my lifestyle.  There are some fit issues, too, but it’s a color and style that are best suited for, say, a garden party or something, and I’ve definitely never been to one of those.  It was fun to make, but I don’t feel comfortable or cute in it.  I have limited time to sew, so I need to be wiser about what will actually work for me so I have fewer duds hogging up time and closet space!

Miss #2: Complete inability to stay on top of gift deadlines.

I first started hand-making things because I wanted to have special (but cheap!) gifts for the many babies in my life.  Since then, I’ve become obsessed with sewing, but little projects for dear friends have taken the backseat and been given way, way late or worse, not at all.  These two little dresses were mailed off to friends way after the baby showers and way after the babies were born.  My dad’s birthday blasted past weeks before I finished his sweater.  Handmade Christmas gifts?  Didn’t happen, besides one knitted hat.  I wish I had budgeted my time better this year so I could show my dear ones that I love them with special gifts.

Miss #3: Abandoning projects that needed fitting work.

I think I muslined three patterns this year that needed work and never went back to them when I saw they would take some time to fix.  I had really limited time to sew this year, so I didn’t want to get bogged down in fitting nightmares, but at the same time, I don’t want to only sew things that fit easily or not address problems that need fixing.  I don’t want to be a sewing quitter!

Miss #4: Not using tried & true patterns.

The only pattern I used twice (for myself) this year!

This is the opposite of the last problem, but I only used a couple of patterns more than once this year!  It’s a really good way to save time and ensure good results, but I was a sucker for the new and shiny and just had to try so many new patterns this year that I only made a second item from one pattern for myself once this year!  That’s so silly, and it means that patterns cost more money when I don’t use them more than once.  On the other hand, I used the Renfrew and Briar top patterns multiple times for my sister, and that made it easy to stitch up pieces for her in a flash.

Miss #5: Not sewing for my dude.

I’m really sorry!!!

This is a bad one.  I sewed 29 items this year, 21 for me, 5 for my sister, 2 for my friends’ babies, and 1 for my dad.  Not one single thing for Man Friend, and he was even sweet enough to model my dad’s sweater, even though it was too tight for him!  This is definitely the thing I feel worst about this year.  I planned to make him a tie and a buttondown for Christmas, but I just couldn’t find the time.  Must remedy this in 2014!

Alright, let’s leave this misery behind and move onto a happier topic: my 5 favorite garments of 2013!  Let’s go in reverse-order, shall we?

Hit #5: Leopard-Print Lola Dress

This might be sort of a boring pick, but it deserves a place on the list because it’s still, to date, the only dress I’ve ever worn to work.  I’ve worn it out and about running errands, to work and a nice dinner afterwards, to church, and just around the house, and it sorta works for everything.  It’s just so easy to wear and it’s LEOPARD PRINT, duh!

Hit #4: Bombshell Swimsuit

This is a bit of an odd choice, since I never go swimming and I don’t love the grandma fabric paired with a more conservative cut than I usually wear, but it was just so enjoyable and surprising that I actually sewed a swimsuit that it has to make the list.  It was a really fun process– I felt like I passed a huge new sewing milestone, but without any pain and suffering!

Hit #3: Victoria Blazer

I just love this blazer so much.  I’d never sewn one before, and never really even worn one, but I wear this all the time and LOVE IT.  I love the shape, the fabric, and the feel of wearing a lined blazer.  It’s a really fun garment, but still totally wearable– AWESOME!  I’ve enjoyed feeling more put-together at work this year, and a huge part of that was putting on my big girl pants and starting to wear blazers!

Hit #2: Archer Button Up Shirt

Dude.  I love this shirt.  When this pattern was released, I felt like it had been designed just for me– this is exactly the kind of shirt that I wear on a daily basis.  It was so fun to put together a buttondown for the first time, and the sewalong was insanely helpful.  It was so thrilling to me to feel like I was making something that was absolutely made for me and that completely fit in with my style and wardrobe.  I was slow finishing this after a mishap with pearl snaps, but once I finally did, I wore it all the time and I feel so very proud that I made it every time I see it.  Thanks, Jen!  I want to make 12 more in 2014!

Hit #1: Ma Deuxième Belladone

This is my favorite dress of all time.  I love love love the pattern, and I finally used a special fabric that I’d been saving for ages to make it.  It so perfectly suits my style, and it fills a major wardrobe gap, what I like to call Saturday dresses.  A perfect Saturday dress can go from the bagel shop to the laundromat to the grocery store to the movies to dinner with friends, all while looking cute and feeling comfortable.  This is totally that dress.  I love it.  I want to marry it.  It just makes me happy!

Alright, how about you guys?  What were your big hits and misses?  What was your very favorite garment this year?  Anything that makes you want to bury your head in the sand and forget it even happened?  There’s no judgment here!  Spill the beans!

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Papercut Patterns Bellatrix Blazer!

Hi, guys!  Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate!  It’s been a busy week full of travel, family, and friends, so I got a bit distracted and forgot to post my most recent Mood Sewing Network garment!  I planned to make a Christmas dress, but at the last minute decided to make a piece that I could wear well after the holidays.  This time of year I often find myself with functions to go to after work, but I don’t have time to go home and change first.  Sometimes I drag a cocktail dress to work and change in the ladies’ room, but I decided that it would be easier (and less stressful!) to make a day-to-night piece that I can toss on top of my work outfit when I feel like getting a little festive.

As soon as I saw the new Papercut Patterns collection, I fell in love with the Bellatrix Blazer.  I like that it’s a bit different from a traditional blazer pattern with its rounded collar and cinched waist– it’s so stylish and fun!  I knew this would make the perfect holiday jacket.  It closes with one button, has a bit of a peplum, and has in-seam welt pockets.  It’s fully lined, too, which makes it even more luxurious and versatile.  The blazer also has slightly-shaped sleeves– they’re a little longer on the front side of your hand than on the palm side, which is a great detail.

I used two black cotton sateens, one very shiny (for the lapels and welts) and one more matte (for the body) to give it a bit of a tuxedo look.  The shinier sateen had a great deal of stretch to it, but since every piece I was using it for needed to be interfaced, I could get away with it.The blazer is lined with a charcoal-colored silk charmeuse for a wee touch ‘o’ fancy-schmanciness.

The pattern is really easy to put together, but it does take a little time.  I made a muslin, but didn’t end up making any fit alterations at all.  I was intimidated by the welt pockets, but they were really easy to do.  The best part is that because they’re in-seam pockets, you don’t have to do any scary slashing on your jacket front!  Yay!  I really like this pattern, and definitely recommend it.  It’s sleek and sassy in black, but I bet it would look really cute in colors (I’m thinking of a red one– wouldn’t that be cool, in an equestrian way?).  I also like the idea of making a short version to wear over dresses.

This sounds insane, but this is my first black blazer!  I’ve never owned one before!  I feel a little square and boring in it, but I know it will go with so many things in my wardrobe.  I definitely feel older and more put-together wearing it, for better or for worse!

What’s your favorite way to take an outfit from day to night?  What are the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe?  Did you sew any special holiday outfits this year?

Here’s a little detail short– it’s tough to photograph black garments!

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2013 Handmade Ornament Exchange: Silver Bells Wreath DIY!

Hi, guys!  I’m so excited to be participating in the True Bias 2013 Handmade Ornament Exchange!  I had a blast making and sending my little holly jolly pug ornaments last year, so I was thrilled to participate again this year!  There’s just something so sweet about handmade ornaments.  I’m one of nine bloggers making and swapping ornaments with each other– be sure to check out everyone else’s ornament tutorials!

This year, my inspiration was the song “Silver Bells”.  I hear it everywhere I go during Christmastime in the city, so it’s the song I most associate with NYC Christmas.  Also, I just love the sound of little jingle bells– it makes me feel like a little kid!  You barely need a tutorial– these are so easy– but here’s one anyway!

You will need:

  • cardboard (I used a cereal box, but you could go with slightly thicker cardboard, too)
  • ribbon (1/4″ or so worked for me, and I used ribbon with wired edges, which has a bit more grip) for the wreath and a small amount of contrasting ribbon for the hanger
  • jingle bells (sold in packages at craft stores)
  • needle & thread OR thin floral wire
  • tape

Trace a circle onto your cardboard (I used a coffee mug, which gave me a circle about 3.5″/9cm in diameter).

Trace a smaller circle in the center of this one, approximately 1″/2.5 cm (I used a spool of thread).

Cut out your cardboard circle and wrap it with ribbon, first securing the end with tape.  Once you’ve finished, secure the ribbon tail with a few stitches with your needle and thread.

Add a ribbon loop for a hanger– cut a piece of contrasting ribbon approximately 8-9″/20-23 cm and sew it onto the ornament, stitching through the ribbon and the cardboard to hold it on tightly.

Now it’s time to add some bells!  I used a needle and thread to stitch them onto the ribbon, weaving the thread underneath the ribbon so it’s almost invisible.  You could also use the floral wire for this– it works just fine!

Keep filling in the spaces with bells until your wreath looks really full and pretty!  For the wreath on the left, I used bells that are all one size, but the plaid wreath is a mix of two sizes.

Admire your handiwork!  I get a little thrill every time I hear the bells chime (usually when I’m knocking stuff off the tree in a sad attempt at watering it), and I love the way the lights reflect off the bells.

Are you guys making any ornaments this year?  What are your favorite handmade ornaments?

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Finished: Patternmaking I (PM 121)!

Hi, all!  If you heard a gigantic sigh of relief radiating from the east coast of the U.S.A. last week, that was probably me turning in my final project for my first patternmaking class at FIT!  It was such an adventure– I’ve been excited to tell you guys about it, but struggled to find the time to post!

The class, PM 121 (Patternmaking I: Misses’ and Womenswear), is the first class in the patternmaking certificate program at FIT, a credit program for evening/weekend students.  Over the course of 15 weeks, we learned the basics of drafting front and back bodice slopers as well as sleeve and collar variations.   We started with the absolute basics, spending time learning how to take careful, accurate measurements before we began developing and fitting basic bodice slopers first in paper, then in muslin.  (Just a note if you’re planning to take the class– you’ll be working with a single dress form, so unless you are lucky enough to have the measurements and proportions of an older dress form, you probably won’t be able to fit into anything you make).  Once we perfected the fit of our slopers, we studied variations for bodices, yokes, sleeves, collars, and necklines, and our final project was drafting, patterning, and sewing a blouse to fit our dress form and conform with industry standards.

Here’s my bodice sloper in muslin form! Remember darts are drafted to the apex, so excuse the, erm, pointy bits…

One thing I really appreciated about the class was getting a little better grasp on some of the rules of pattern drafting.  I tend to be a sort of “let’s wing it and see what happens!” type of person (probably not the ideal seamstress, ha), so it was good to learn the textbook method for things I’ve been doing wrong all along like adding seam allowances to patterns or drafting facings.  Once I learned some of the rules it was fun to learn where I have more freedom to experiment (for example, you can draft a collar to any size, but you want to make sure it’s always 1/4″ deeper than the collar stand so your stand doesn’t peek out beneath the collar).  These are probably really obvious to most of you, but I didn’t know them coming into the class.  I also appreciated the emphasis on working from seamlines– it really does make fit or style alterations much quicker to work from a sloper without seam allowances, something I haven’t experienced before since I sew mainly from commercial patterns with the SA already added in.

The final project in all its glory! The poly charmeuse (brought in by a classmate who works for Vera Wang) was tough to press and there are some odd wrinkles from the twill tape on the dress form underneath it, but you get the idea.

I’m really glad that I learned some techniques that will be really helpful for my personal sewing (things like drafting a sleeve placket or a collar stand).  While many of the things we drafted are pretty old-fashioned or dated, it’s still good to know how to do it.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I found the class experience to be a bit frustrating at times.  Since my crazy job schedule leaves me with limited time to sew, I tend to be a results-based sewist and enjoy quicker projects more rewarding.  Sometimes it was hard to make myself work and work and work on patterns and muslins for garments that I couldn’t fit into and wouldn’t wear even if I could.  Patternmaking is time-consuming and can be very, very tedious, and there was a lot more homework than I anticipated.  Since class and homework sucked up almost all of the free time I normally dedicate to sewing my own garments, my fun hobby turned into a bit of a chore and I had a tough time keeping up with my Mood Sewing Network deadlines.

Look at those sleeves! The cropped bodice with the 1/4 circle sleeves looks like Daisy Duke joined a church choir, ugh!

If I sound a little negative about the class, it’s not because of the quality of the class, but rather because patternmaking isn’t really my strong suit.  I’m sloppy, don’t enjoy detail work, and am terrible with numbers, so I continually made lots of dumb mistakes that took a long time to fix and really frustrated me.  And I’ve never been much of a student, so it was an adjustment to be back in class, especially a nearly-four-hour class at the end of a long work day.   But the information I learned in the class was really good and I’ll definitely be utilizing it in the future.  Plus, if you’re a NY resident, the tuition is really affordable (the rate for an entire semester is about the same as what you would pay for a four-session class at the average Manhattan sewing studio, and I’ll guarantee that you will learn a lot more).  I’m really impressed by the wide variety of classes offered at FIT, and if my schedule and budget allow, I’d love to keep taking classes there (not to go all Portlandia on you guys, but I spied students working in a jewelry lab with soldering irons and little blowtorches and guys, I WANNA USE LITTLE BLOWTORCHES!).

So, let’s hear from you guys!  Do any of you have any experience with patternmaking or with sewing classes?  What were your experiences like?  And for you patternmakers out there, does it get easier?  Am I basically doomed if I’m the kind of person who goofs up measurements or adds them up incorrectly?  Are you interested in drafting your own patterns?  Would you take a patternmaking class if you could?

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