Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Blueberry Bush

How long have we lived in this house? Four, going on five years? Surely by now we'd know our house and grounds pretty well, right? Well, we were in for a surprise this summer when one of the nondescript bushes in our yard started producing blueberries!

I vaguely recall suspecting such a thing last summer, but the berries were so tiny and decidedly not blue that I decided I must be mistaken. If I'm correct, blueberries require two bushes of different varieties in order to produce. We must have an anomaly, then, because we just have one bush. One enormous, overgrown, formerly-unidentified bush. Seriously, it's about eight feet tall. 

The Littles have been loving our new find, and Little Man is on a constant hunt for "dark ones." That snapshot of berries in Rosa's hand above? I had about a second to capture that before they all went in her mouth. They're tiny little berries, and not particularly sweet -- but that hasn't stopped us from munching up every berry we can find, as soon as they're ripe. I'm rather surprised it's bearing so late, as I believe late June is more typical for our area.

 It's been such a treat to enjoy some homegrown food -- especially since it cost no effort on our part! After some of the "discoveries" this house has dished up, it's nice to have a surprise of the pleasant variety. Now just to save up enough berries at one time to make some muffins...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Little Toms

An invitation to a baby shower for a little fellow in our church finally offered me an excuse to try Leisha's free pattern and tutorial for mini "TOMS." They're just too precious not to try, don't you think?

I use a thick navy linen with a homespun texture, with a pale khaki twill for the lining and soles. The elastic was actually salvaged from the "shelf bra" of a camisole (seriously, when will clothing manufacturers realize that an extra layer of fabric with a band of elastic does NOT constitute a substitute for a proper supportive undergarment?). It's thick and slightly fuzzy, and worked perfectly.

I made two significant alterations to the infant pattern, besides omitting the tags and adding a little bit of length to the sole, since the aforementioned baby is two months old. One was the construction of the "V" shape -- mine is lined, in a sense, which should eliminate the possibility of raveling at the corners of the "V's" (which I could see was inevitable had I followed the instructions as written). The other alteration was to make the sole lining conceal all raw edges by waiting to stitch it on until the end. Next time I make a pair I may take a few pictures of these steps, as they're hard to describe but are worth trying.

Hopefully these fit the little chap they were intended for -- otherwise, I'll get busy stitching up a slightly larger pair! My babies had such tiny feet that I can never get a good sense for how big baby shoes should be. I have a feeling I'll be buying the pattern downloads so that I have access to all of the sizes that Leisha has designed. I love the style, and think they're perfect for little ones!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finery and Progress

I've developed a fascination with linen sheets of late, ever since I discovered their existence -- sadly, that's an expensive fascination, though apparently a good sheet will last many years.

And then, I remembered. In a box under our bed, we had a carefully folded top sheet and set of matching pillowcases, given to me at my bridal shower by a dear family friend. And not just any top sheet -- a snowy, antique French sheet with beautiful embroidery. My recent research made me suspect it might be linen, and my suspicions were quickly confirmed when I pulled it out.

Look at all of that incredible hand stitching!

I'd never used the sheet, considering it too precious and special to be subjected to wear and tear. In fact, it still had the tag from the fancy antique linen shop it had been purchased from. My reasoning, of course, was ridiculous. It was given to us to put on our bed, not under it. And why own something "too nice" to use? I delayed a day or two, then finally washed it and put it on our bed. The verdict? Not only is it beautiful, it's incredibly luxurious. It has a lovely weight and drape, and the way it breathes helps regulate temperature. I'd no idea sheets could be so lovely! I now need a bottom sheet, which I'm considering sewing myself. For now, it's a luxury to have some finery for every-day.

In other news, here's the current project on my needles:

It's a Harriet cardigan, in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash Worsted. The color is Fjord Heather, and is rather lighter than it shows up in the photo. This little sweater is destined for Rosa once the cooler months arrive -- though it currently seems as though cooler weather will never come! The pattern jumps from 24 months to 4T, so I'm trying to size it in between. So far, so good -- though my ribbing looks untidy, a problem which will hopefully resolve when I block it. But there are a number of rows between now and then...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Meret for Rosa

I technically finished this project some time ago, but am just now getting around to posting it. Which, considering that it will be many months before it's cold enough for Rosa to wear it, doesn't seem all that late. 

The (free) pattern is the Meret (Mystery Beret) by Woolly Wormhead. It was really quite easy -- though, in typical beginner fashion, I did have a fair number of rows to pull out and re-do. I learned a few new things along the way, and got a taste of basic lace knitting. 

The yarn is Knitpicks' Gloss DK in Velveteen. It's 70% Merino and 30% silk -- doesn't that just sound delicious? It's got such a lovely hand! Perhaps my favorite thing about knitting is that you can see everything coming together gradually. I'm sure over time I'll gain a sense of what different stitch combinations will produce, but for now it's almost like magic. Increase, then decrease, then yarn over? Then BAM, you see the pattern emerge. 

I used a DK yarn instead of the recommended Aran, since I was making this for a toddler -- however, I used the medium size, since I didn't want it to come out too small. I think it will work just right. It fits now, but will fit better in a few months.

This, of course, was the best picture I managed of Rosa wearing her new beret -- trying to get a picture of a hat without also photographing the face of a very active toddler is no laughing matter!

Here's a better view of the lace pattern:

I've done one or two other projects which I'll have to post soon, but I've actually had a bit of a hiatus from knitting after attempting a pattern (several times) that was ultimately too difficult. But I have a new pattern lined up, and hopefully Rosa will soon have a wee cardigan for the winter months.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Dove Dynasty Tee

This started out (in my mind) as a bird print sort-of-colorblocked top (does it count as colorblocking if one of the blocks is a print? Hmm). However, it quickly received a new spin when, on its first "airing" at a church function, one of our male friends mistook it for a Duck Dynasty print. When I told my husband about it, he said it looked more like a Dove Dynasty print than a Duck Dynasty print. He can't help being clever, you know. The name has stuck, and now that's how I think of it!

I used my basic self-drafted cap sleeve tee pattern for this top, changing it up by adding a curved yoke. I really though an all-over bird print might be a little much, and I'm glad I went with my gut. Both fabrics are from Girl Charlee.

The tee seemed a little baggy when I was done, but I didn't want to risk too much shaping in the side seam because the grey jersy isn't super stretchy. So instead, I opted to cinch in the waist in the back with a piece of wide elastic, zig-zagged to the shirt. I think it worked out rather well, and it provides just enough shape.

I think I reapplied the neck band three times -- once after that initial airing I mentioned. I just couldn't seem to hit the sweet spot, so the neckline was annoyingly floppy. Fortunately it's perfect now. My one regret? The first row of birds under the yoke is upside down, and it would have been better to have that very visible row upright. But I did make sure the rows lined up at the side seams, so that consoles me a little.

The only question is -- are my fowls actually doves or not? We'll just say they are, okay?

Monday, July 07, 2014

My First Me-Made Swimsuit

After so many years of "stretchy fabric phobia," it's hard to believe that I've actually made my own swimsuit! My previous swim "outfit" was made up of a leotard, tankini top, and active-wear capris. It was fine, and did its job well. However, lately I've found myself wanting something a little different -- after all, it has been six years! And now that I'm comfortable with knits, I thought it might be time to try swimwear fabric.

Inspiration struck when I saw this post by Jacqueline and her daughter -- which is a tad ironic, since my swim ensemble mentioned above is included as one of their sources of inspiration! 

I went for a browse on Girl Charlee (always dangerous!) and fell in love with their Teal Cherry Blossom swimwear print. It's fun and a bit more exotic than my usual taste -- perfect for a swimwear. Of course, I decided to take it a step further by choosing orange milliskin for the bottom half, to blend with the orange in the cherry print! And this time I opted for combined leggings and skirt for the lower half.

I was able to get away with just one yard of each fabric, since the orange fabric was super wide (72"!). I have absolutely no scraps of the orange fabric left over, and very little of the cherry blossom print. 

One of my favorite details of the top (for which I used my faithful self-drafted cap sleeve tee pattern) is the ruched shoulder seam. I cut narrow strips of the orange fabric and gave me them some hefty tugs to make them "curl," and then fed them through the top-stitched casings and sewed them into the neckline seam.

As you can see, I hemmed the armholes but left the fabric edge raw. No raveling, no problem.

The swim top has no built in "support," but I'm used to providing my own undergarments for that purpose. I also added ruching to the side seams, though that took several tries to get just right -- I had to trim off quite a bit to get it to lay right!

I drafted my skirt and leggings combo by tracing my Running Skirt from Kosher Casual. At the time I bought it, I was not yet sewing with knits -- though quite honestly, it was well worth the $42, as it's very well made and has allowed me to come up with my own pattern for future skirts. Here's a view of the leggings underneath the skirt:

The milliskin is super silky, but is also lightweight -- I'm glad I have two layers!

And here, dear readers, is the closest you will ever come to seeing my unmentionables on the Interwebs. I knew I wanted *something* under those leggings, and cotton undies just sound clammy and unpleasant. So I traced a pair from my closet and came up with this:

They're absolutely perfect! I still have no idea how I managed to eke them out of the tiny scraps of fabric I had leftover. I even designed them with a facing/casing at the leg holes, but it turned out that I didn't need any elastic inserted. There is a casing at the waist with a bit of elastic. I self-lined the crotch, and had some fun with finishing details.

It wasn't long until I got to put my new swim outfit to the test! We put together a little sprinkler apparatus for the kiddos, and took advantage of a particularly steamy day to cool off in the driveway. I found Rosa's rash guard at a local second-hand shop, but I made her leggings-with-attached-circle-skirt using fabric given to me by my mother-in-law.

I had to take the waistband elastic in after that day, as poor Rosa's leggings
kept slipping down over her diaper!

Here's the sprinkler, made with inexpensive PVC parts and one 10' section of PVC pipe from Lowe's:

We drilled four holes in each length of PVC pipe, setting them at odd angles
so they would squirt out in different directions.

And here's my only action shot so far! Excuse my odd expression; those little water streams are... well, wet!

Little Man is very fond of his "prinkler," and asks to use it almost every day.

Final analysis? I haven't actually been swimming yet, but I think this will work very well, indeed. I may shorten the skirt a tad just to facilitate movement, as it tends to bind to the legs a bit when wet, but overall I'm quite pleased. And at less than $20 for a modest and customized swimsuit, it was quite economical!

Now I'm more determined than ever to get out with the littles and enjoy the water this summer. I hope you're all having pleasant summers of your own!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Drawstring Tee: Free Pattern and Tutorial

It's here! The drawstring tee that I promised you when I posted this coral version is ready to go. Here it is via Google docs:

Drawstring Tee Pattern and Instructions

Note: When you print the pattern pieces, be sure to choose "actual size" in the printer options. The dashed boxes on each page should measure 7 by 9.5"

There are two files -- one with the pattern pieces and one with the pattern instructions. There are a few illustrations included in the instructions, but below you'll find a picture tutorial for (hopefully) more clarification. The instructions may seem lengthy, but that's just because I'm wordy and there are a few steps I wanted to describe in detail. This tee is really quite simple and can be sewn up quickly!

This tee has finished measurements of 31" bust, 33" waist, and 36" hips -- but keep in mind that knit garments have negative ease, and the fit of the garment will depend on the kind of knit fabric you use. For reference, my measurements are 34" bust, 29-30" waist, and 38" hips.

I have linebacker shoulders with almost no slope, so if you have sloping shoulders and find the the "flutter" sleeves are too revealing, you can try inserting some narrow elastic in the armhole hem or just rearrange the gathering on the drawstring.

So, if you want your own version of the Drawstring Tee, print your pattern, grab some fabric, and let's get going!

What You'll Need:

  • Approx. 1 yard of relatively stretchy knit fabric, light to medium weight 
  • Matching thread
  • Stretch or ballpoint needle (I like stretch, because you can use them on any knit fabric)
  • A scrap of fusible interfacing (1 1/4" by 2")
  • Double stretch or ballpoint needle (optional -- I have one but didn't use it)
  • Disappearing ink fabric pen (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Wash Away Wonder Tape (for hems; optional)

Things to Note:

  • All seam allowances are 3/8" unless otherwise noted
  • Instructions for finishing seams are not included, because I've given up serging seams that aren't going to fray. *wink*

{a} Prepare the pattern
  1. Print your pattern pages and trim the edges to the dotted boxes.
  2. Piece together your printed sheets following the markings on each sheet. Please note that the directional arrows do not line up with one another! They merely indicate which pages should be touching. 
  3. Tape your sheets together, making sure to tape the junctions where the pattern lines cross over to a new page. 
  4. Cut out the paper pattern. My recommendation is to then fold a large piece of paper (or non-fusible interfacing) in half and place the pattern on top, matching the center fold line to the fold in the paper. Then trace around the pattern and cut – when you unfold the paper you will have a full pattern that will not need to be placed on a fold! 

{b} Cut the fabric

  1. Lay the pattern out on your fabric, placing the pattern as close as possible to the selvages (this minimizes waste). If you only have a “half” pattern, you will need to fold the selvage edge back toward the fold in the fabric until you have a surface large enough for your pattern piece. 
  2. Cut the pattern out by either pinning the pattern to the fabric or (my favorite) using a disappearing ink fabric pen to trace the pattern shape. Once the two shirt pieces are cut out, you will cut one of the necklines to the “front neckline” marking on the pattern. 
  3. Cut your two casing pieces – 2 ¾” by 18 ½” for the back casing, and 2 ¾” by 22” for the front casing. The fabric should stretch along the longest measurement of each piece. 
  4. Cut your drawstring pieces – 2 pieces 1 ¾” wide by (at least) 26” long. Note: you’re going for an overall length of at least 50” – you can use more than two pieces to achieve this. 
{b} 1: Here's the "half pattern" option -- notice that the fabric selvage has been
folded back to create an "extra' fold

{b} 1: Here's the "full pattern" option, traced with a disappearing ink fabric marker.
Notice how the front neckline is also traced? I cut out both layers using
the higher back neckline, then separated the layers and cut the lower
 front neckline on just the upper piece

{c} Assemble the Shirt 
  1. Place the front and back of the shirt right sides together; pin and sew the shoulder and side seams. Set aside. 

{d} Assemble the Casing
  1. Mark the center of the front casing (the longer of the two casing pieces) with a pin. 
  2. Cut a 1 ¼” by 2” piece of fusible interfacing. Center it along the edge of the wrong side of the front casing (see below). Iron with a press cloth. 
  3. Match the center of the casing to the “center of front casing” line on the Casing Buttonhole Guide piece. Using the guide, mark the location of the buttonholes (the buttonholes will be placed over the interfacing). 
  4. Stitch two buttonholes onto the right side of the casing using your machine’s buttonholer, or by stitching two rows of narrow zigzag connected by a band of wide zigzag at the top and bottom. Cut the buttonholes open. 
  5. Pin the casing pieces right sides together along the short ends; sew them together to create a tube. 
  6. Press the casing seams open.
  7. Fold the casing in half width-wise, wrong sides together with the right side facing out. Your casing is now doubled and measures roughly 1 3/8” wide. You can stay-stitch the raw edges together if you wish. 
{d} 2: Center the interfacing along one long edge of the front casing -- make sure
you adhere it to the wrong side of the fabric.

{d} 3: Use the casing button guide to mark the location of the button
holes; the buttonholes should be on the side of the casing that
has the interfacing.

{d} 7: Fold the casing in half width-wise. It's now ready to sew to the shirt!

{e} Attach the Casing

  1. Turn the shirt right side out. Pin the casing to the neck edge, matching the casing seams with the shoulder seams. NOTE: It is very important that the buttonholes for the drawstring face the right way; they should be facing the right side of the shirt as you pin. 
  2. Stitch the casing to the shirt -- it's okay to ease the fabric a bit if they don't match perfectly, but try not to stretch the fabric too much.
  3. Press the seam allowance toward the shirt. To reduce bulk, trim the two under layers of seam allowance to 1/8”, leaving the “outer layer” of seam allowance intact. Topstitch ¼” away from the casing (i.e., stitch on the shirt front, not the casing itself), catching the seam allowance in your stitches. 
  4. Topstitch ¼” from the folded edge of the casing – this is optional, but will create a ruffle effect when the drawstring is tightened. 
{e} 2: The casing is now stitched to the shirt, with the buttonholes on the "right"
side of the shirt.
{e} 3: There are three layers in the casing/shirt seam allowance. You want to
trim the two closest to the shirt, and leave the one closest to the casing intact.

{e} 3: Topstitch the shirt, making sure the seam allowance is caught in the stitching
underneath. Take it slow!

{e} 4: Topstitch close to the edge of the casing -- this
is optional, and will create a slight ruffle effect when
the drawstring is cinched.

{f} Finishing

  1. Fold sleeve holes under 3/8” – use the Wash Away Wonder Tape to secure, if desired. You can also use a double stretch/ballpoint needle if you prefer a double-stitched hem, though you can also just sew one or two rows of stitching with a single stretch/ballpoint needle.
  2. Fold the hem up ½” and stitch, using the same techniques as the previous step. 
{f} 1 + 2: You can use Wonder Tape for a precise hem,
or -- like me -- just wing it! Be sure to press your hems;
a little steam can do wonders for a knit hem that looks
stretched out.

{g} Drawstring

  1. If you used more than two pieces of fabric for your drawstring, you will need to sew them together until you have just two pieces. 
  2. Fold each drawstring in half width-wise, right sides together. Your drawstring pieces now measure 7/8” wide. 
  3. Stitch along the length of each drawstring piece (1/4” from the edge), leaving one end open and sewing down to a point at the other end. Clip close to the stitching along the curved section. 
  4. Turn the two drawstring pieces right side out using a knitting needle, skewer, etc. – just be sure that your “turner” doesn’t have a point that will penetrate the fabric. 
  5. Insert one of the open ends of the drawstring ½” into the open end of the other drawstring (this part of the drawstring will be concealed in the casing, so the raw edges will be totally obscured). Stitch across the width of the drawstring to secure the two pieces together 
  6. Feed the drawstring through the casing on the shirt (using the buttonholes). My suggestion for getting it through is to attach both ends of a 5-6” scrap of ribbon to a large safety pin (forming a loop with the ribbon). Pull about eight inches of the drawstring through the ribbon loop. Now push the safety pin through the casing – the ribbon loop will pull the drawstring through as you go. 
  7. Adjust the drawstring so that the ends are even. Try it on and adjust until the neckline is right, then tie the drawstring in a bow! 

{g} 3: Stitch a curve at the end of each drawstring piece for a nice detail -- then
trim close to the stitching to remove excess bulk.

{g} 4: Turn the drawstrings right side out and carefully push out 
the points.

{g} 5: Don't worry about the raw edge -- it will be concealed in the casing.

{g} 5: Again, just topstitch the two piece together -- the stitching will be hidden.
{g} 6: Feed your drawstring through your "puller," leaving a long enough tail that your drawstring won't get lost
part way through the casing. 

{g} 6: It doesn't matter which buttonhole you pick to feed your drawstring through. 

{g} 6: Once the safety pin comes out the other side, shimmy out the end of the
drawstring ans start to even out the gathering

{g} 7: Once you've evened out the gathering and adjust it to fit, tie a bow and take a bow!

You’re Done! Great Job!

Enjoy your new tee, and thanks for sewing along with me!

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Bit of Vintage Sewing -- Hollywood 1512

In a burst of "conscientious" sewing, I tackled a project that I -- no kidding -- cut out when Little Man was tiny. Since then, it has been sitting folded in a zippered bag in various nooks and crannies of my sewing room. You know, one of those guilt-inducing UFOs that stabs you with an army of pins every time you move it, just to remind you that you're a lazy, unmotivated procrastinator?

Fed up with the guilt trips (and the pin-pricks), I finally pulled it out and went to work.

The pattern is Hollywood 1513, circa 1939 -- Here's a link to one that's for sale. Isn't it just the most fantabulous house coat? I paid a pretty penny more than I'd typically spend on a pattern, because I was just so taken with this design! It's interesting to see how "loungwear" has changed in the past eighty years.

Sadly, the pattern is slightly larger than my size, so the finished product is a bit big. But it was really intended as a mock-up, so in the end it's not much of a disappointment.

The pattern was also one of those "lovely" vintage numbers that has delicate pre-cut sheets of tissue with about a million "markings" on them in the form of little dots and diamonds. If you know me, you know I HATE pattern markings with a vengeance, so it was quite a labor of love to transfer each and every one. Oh, and I traced the pattern onto nonfusible interfacing first, so that I wouldn't have to compromise the tissue paper sheets.

There are some definite negatives about the finished dress -- mostly to do with my fabric choice (light weight quilting cotton), which was not ideal for this dress. I think it was what I had on hand at the time. The collar and lapel pieces are not interfaced, so the dress lacks some much-needed structure in the bodice. Oh, and I didn't read the cuff instructions very well, and due to the way I attached them they don't "cuff" as much as they should. But since this was intended as a mock-up, I'm okay with the little issues.

I love the little sewn in "pleat" in the sleeve!
In the end, I doubt I'll wear the dress in public. It's less "me" than it was when I cut it out (again, fabric). But it's looking smashing on Yvonne, who has been rather scandalously clad in *just* an apron for months.

The intructions were remarkably vague! In fact, I'm quite glad this was a mock-up, because it gave me the chance to try out the various steps. I think I'd be much more confident next time around.

I love the details on this dress -- the bound buttonholes (which would have turned out better if I'd read ahead in the instructions and had picked a better fabric *wink*), the wrap front, the sash that feeds around and can be tied either front or back. I'm toying with the idea of sizing it down and making it in a better fabric, as it really is a splendid pattern.

The buttons line up much better when the dress is worn by someone with hips;
Yvonne is rather lacking in the hip department...

It's a bit humbling to post a project that has (in my eyes) so many shortcomings, but I suppose I get brownie points for honesty? And come to think of it, it could be quite a treat to lounge around the house in this dress!