Saturday, August 9, 2014

Something else made during Me Made May... (plus: an owly baby hoodie and maternity sewing plans)

Halfway through Me Made May a few months ago, my husband and I got some exciting news—I was four weeks pregnant! We did not yet want to publicly announce, but I almost instantly developed an obvious baby belly and a quite expanded bustline and began to have trouble fitting into some of my favorite clothes, me-made and otherwise. (I think it's a second-time mom thing, as I didn't show at all with my daughter until I was at least 11 weeks along).

I didn't want to give up on Me Made May, so I just tried to suck in the belly in photos and even wear body shapers to try to hide it on the blog and at work for the rest of the month... but by the last few days of May I was actually wearing some of the maternity clothes I made back in 2010, and various kindly people of New York were already starting to offer me seats on the subway. Can you spot it?

And then at about 6 1/2 weeks along, I suddenly was hit with a wave of nausea and exhaustion like no other, and am only now at 16 weeks starting to emerge into some semblance of normal feeling. All I've sewn in the meantime is a little baby hoodie for a friend's baby shower:

Baby Hoodie

The nice thing about sewing baby clothes is how very short the seams are—they may have just as many pieces and bits as adult clothes, but before you know it, everything is done. This is from the wonderful Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby book, and I made the same pattern for my own daughter Z when I was pregnant with her (did she not have the BEST little fro-hawk?!):

Blue Doodle Baby Hoodie (worn by Baby Z, 12 wks)

I'm now planning to embark on a modest maternity sewing and baby sewing/knitting spree—a friend of mine from the Brooklyn Sewing Club scored me a set of Simplicity maternity patterns on a $1 each sale (some of which are actually Megan Nielsen patterns!), and I'm super excited to make them up. Here are my top three:

Simplicity 1469 (which is also Megan Nielsen's nursing/maternity top/dress pattern):

Simplicity 1468 maternity wrap top (another Megan Nielsen):

Simplicity 1360 maternity dress or mini dress:

I'm probably not going to overdo the maternity sewing, as I have quite a few maternity me-mades left over from last time and have been able to score a lot of great items free or thrifted (like the top in the photo). But I think at least a few warm maternity tops, a pair of wool jersey leggings, a long-sleeved dress and a wool jersey skirt for winter are in order, since I'm due in January. I might focus more on adding to my nursing-friendly-top-and-dress stash, as that will be something I can wear for at least two years, not just the next five months.

P.S. Our daughter wants to name the baby "Text Message Wood", "Tree Wood" "Apple Wood" or "Brothy Sisty Wood" (Wood is husband's last name). We will not be taking her up on her suggestions.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chevron squiggle overload: the updated Cake Patterns free Tee pattern

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

I actually made this Tee a month ago while I was working on the updated envelope art, but couldn't share officially until the pattern was out in the wild (available now as a free PDF via Craftsy, or a printed (and of course not-free) paper pattern via Etsy.

As you all know, I illustrate for Cake Patterns and thus have access to the patterns for free, so this isn't an objective review or anything, but I don't get paid to sew Cake and I made this for fun and my opinion is my own, and etc. So when I tell you I love this Tee pattern—I mean it!

The basics

Pattern: The Tee, Cake Patterns Riff No. 2224. A knit custom-fit and custom-length T-shirt with cut-on sleeves, hem band, V-neck or round neck options and micro pocket options. I made the single-pocket V-neck version in a 26" length (I wanted an almost tunic-length top):

Fabric: 1 yard of a really uncooperative (if totally fun) thin chevron printed rayon-spandex knit from Tex Styles in Austin, Texas. The pattern wasn't even SLIGHTLY close to on-grain at all, so I cut it to make the lines look as straight as possible. And I used a bit of chevron for the pocket to look like an "M" for "Mikhaela."

Size: I made the size 35, with 38" bust and 39" hips and a 26" length. I normally would do a snug waist with negative ease, but since this fabric was so tissue thin I only brought the waist in to 33" at the fit check step.

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

Modifications: No modifications, except those directed in the pattern (bringing in the waist slightly for a closer fit during the fit check stage).

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

Construction notes: This is a very quick and satisfying make—no sleeve setting required. Cutting out the recalcitrant fabric was probably the hardest part.

The round neckline version would have been quicker, but I love a V-neck and have never made one before, so decided to try it out and am happy I did. I just followed the written instructions, but Steph recently posted a step-by-step photo tutorial for mitered V-necks that breaks it down more clearly for beginners.

The pattern also comes with a little pressing template that makes getting perfectly shaped little pockets much easier.

Wear: I've been wearing this versatile basic constantly—with jeans, skirts, whatever. Next time I might make it a little longer to be more tunic-length for over leggings. I probably SHOULD make a solid-colored one as I need some plainer Ts, but I'm sure I'll go for a pattern again.

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a free Tee pattern!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do you have too many (or too few) clothes? + Me Made May VICTORY and wrapup

So somehow I did it—wore at least one me-made every day of May 2014, and got some kind of documentary photo to prove it, even if was just a low-quality bathroom mirror Instagram selfie.

Not only that, but it was really a "Me-Making May" (to use Susan's term). I completed EIGHT garments for myself during the month, and FOUR for children (which is a definite record for me—I didn't even have time to blog them all!): two dresses, five tops, three skirts, a sweater and a jacket. Um, that's my average sewing output for an entire year.

So I'm a little TIRED and taking a little break from sewing for a week or so to recover, but I'm making great knitting progress on my Hetty cardigan. It looks tiny BUT it's lace and all scrunched up, AND my gauge swatch grew quite a bit when I blocked it, so I'm not going to worry (yet):

Super sick today and had to stay in bed and sleep all day. Finally feeling better and taking out my Hetty by @andisatt for a little therapeutic #knitting . It's coming along so quickly!

Anyway, I was trying to think what I learned from Me Made May this year, and here are my random thoughts:

  • I have too many clothes. That is, too many clothes I never wear, and don't necessarily like. When putting together outfits for Me-Made-May I found myself wearing (or trying to wear) some me-mades and old ready-to-wear or thrifted pieces that I hadn't worn since LAST Me Made May... and that I think I just need to ditch. I brought quite a few bags to the clothes recycling at the farmer's market this month, though I hate to just get rid of me mades that way (maybe I'll give them away here?)
  • I have too few clothes. That is, too few clothes in certain basic categories that I rely on a lot: basic denim and solid-colored skirts, solid-color tops, jeans, knit camisoles. This is partly because I stopped buying most fast fashion two years ago after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion... and I haven't really been focused enough in my sewing or thrift shopping to fill those basic areas.
  • I dress very differently when I'm going to be showing photos of myself on the internet. I wear heels and makeup slightly more often, and more dresses and skirts than usual. I swear I wore jeans for more than 50% of days in April, but since I don't have any me-made trousers I actually like, I only wore jeans or trousers four times the entire month of May.
  • I have/make too many polka-dot things. I know, this blog is called Polka Dot Overload. But I also love all kinds of other prints—bold florals and geometrics, stripes, chevrons. I need more of a mix here, I'm starting to bore myself.

How about you? What do you have too much or too little of?

Anyway, here is the last week of Me-Made-May... on to June!

Me Made May 25: Polka Dot Twins

Me Made May 25: Polka Dot Repeat

The little girl and I wore polka dots (yeah, I know) for my grandmother's 92nd birthday party. Mine is the third wear of my McCall's 6070 for the month. I think I need to make more of this pattern, as I'm obviously very into it.

Me Made May 26: Me Made Everything

Me Made May 26: Me Made Everything

I'm relaxing on my mom's porch in one of my Cake Hummingbird tops and a self-drafted knit half circle skirt. Z is wearing her new wax print Made By Rae Baby Sunsuit as top and Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt. Yes I have pale legs.

Me Made May 27: Stripes and bows

Me Made May Day 27 ... almost there!

My Tilly and the Buttons Miette skirt (blogged here) and Burdastyle Magazine Feb. 2010 top (never blogged). Plus old RTW cardigan for the summer-like heat.

Me Made May 28: Finally hemmed!

Me Made May 28: Finally Hemmed My Dress!

Finally got my act together nd started hemming the five unhemmed me-made dresses and skirts that had been piling up (I was wearing them, but unhemmed). The dress is vintage Simplicity 7575 (blogged here before hemming) and the jacket is out-of-print McCall's 5529, just finished last week (blogged here).

Me Made May 29: Dots and Denim

Me Made May 29: Dots and Denim

Jalie 2005 T-shirt and Cake Hummingbird denim skirt.

Me Made May 30: My Stash of Fabrics for Theme Friday

Me Made May 30: My Stash of Fabrics

My six main drawers of fabric, patterns and yarn are behind me (though I will admit I have fabric squirreled away in a few other places in the apartment). Wearing my (finally hemmed) Cake Patterns Red Velvet knit dress. I think this is my favorite photo for the whole month.

Me Made May 31: I Need a Nap

Me Made May 31: Goodbye Me Made May!

The me-mades here are the simple knit half-circle skirt and some hidden underthings. PHEW.

So what are your wardrobe challenges?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Help Me Conquer My Fear of Hemming? (+ Me Made May Week 4)

Readers, I have finally decided to face down my Chronic Hemming Avoidance. A commenter on PatternReview had the following to say about the 1970s dress I entered in the Vintage Contest:

Nice dress. Please do hem it though. Raw hem on a knit is a dead give-away for a cheaply made modern dress. No one in the 1970's (or even the '80's or 90's) would have done that. It's one of my pet peeves about mass market rtw, especially stuff targeted to kids and teens.

And really, she is right. I don't mind a raw hem now and then, but I am starting to be embarrassed that it is my default hem "treatment" for knit fabrics.

My Unfinished Object pile may finally be gone, but my Unhemmed Dress and Skirt Pile of Doom is really starting to get out of control. As of yesterday, I had five fullish-skirted dresses or skirts that I've just been wearing out and about in the raw — not because I want to, but just because I'm SCARED. I've been telling myself I will hem them SOMEDAY but considering that one of them is three years old I don't think "someday" is just going to happen on its own.

In fact, I have a long history of Chronic Hemming Avoidance—just look at the first two knit fabric projects I posted on PatternReview back in 2005 (before I owned a tripod):

So why I am so terrified of hemming full knit skirts that I would rather just walk around in public unhemmed?

  1. I don't know how to properly level a skirt. The whole idea of a letting a skirt settle and then somehow magically LEVELING an uneven hem freaks me out to no end. Also—my husband does NOT feel comfortable getting down on the floor with a box of pins to try and help.
  2. My cheap old "My Double" dress form is crooked, and using it for hem leveling might make my dresses crooked.
  3. I am really impatient. Wovens HAVE to be hemmed, but since knits won't TOTALLY unravel and fall apart before I can throw them on and enjoy them, it feels almost optional.
  4. Hemming full skirts properly takes me EONS. SO MANY PINS and SO MUCH PRESSING.
  5. I am afraid I will hem a skirt WRONG and too SHORT and then it will be TOO LATE and everything will be ruined. RUINED!
  6. I am afraid I will use up my last few yards of Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 1/2" fusible web tape and it is currently out of production.

So my goal before the close of Me Made May is to finish what I started and get hemming. I got a head start at last month's sewing club when Cindy brought her hemming level and pinned two of my dresses, but I need a more sustainable solution so I'm not walking around unhemmed for several weeks at a time.

Last night I tinkered around with my recalcitrant "My Double" dress form and I seem to have fixed her hemming level and weird tilt, but when I tried to use her I didn't feel like I trusted that the 1970s dress was sitting properly level so I got scared and just made an even 1/2" hem all around with fusible webbing tape. Ah well. I did feel a bit more put together.

Me Made May 28: Finally Hemmed My Dress!

Do you have any favorite tricks or tutorials for getting a proper level hem in full skirts—especially knit ones? Or are you in the "hemming knits is TOTALLY OPTIONAL" camp?

And... oh yeah, Me Made May! Here's week 4... almost there!

Me Made May 18: Nettie Goes to Legoland

#mmmay14 day 18 Nettie bodysuit by @heatherlou as a top with a thrifted skirt. #nettiebodysuit #sewing #isew

Me Made May 18: Nettie goes to Legoland

Surprised husband and daughter with a trip to Legoland for husband's birthday—we all had a blast, even if the two hours each way on various forms of public transport was a bit challenging (subway ride to train ride to LONG suburban bus ride). Wore my hot off the sewing machine Closet Case Patterns Nettie Bodysuit as top.

Me Made May 19: Back of the Me-Made Drawer

Me Made May 19: Bottom of the drawer (running out of me-mades!)

Here are two of the last me-mades that sorta fit that I haven't worn yet for Me Made May--both from pre-blog days. The skirt is Simplicity 5914, and it's nearly 10 years old. It was too big then but is now slightly tight in the waist and a bit uncomfortable to wear. The top is from the Feb. 2010 issue of Burdastyle magazine and has a badly botched neck binding.

Me Made May 20: Running on Repeat

Me Made May 20: Starting to repeat myself...

McCall's 6070 ombre dress (still unhemmed) and Georgina cardigan by Alexis Winslow again.

Me Made May 21: These Me-Mades Are Hidden and My Photos Are Lazy

Me Made May 21: Only hidden me-mades here

Wearing a not-yet-blogged me-made T-shirt and me-made underthings.

Me Made May 22: Still Unhemmed

Me Made May 22: A little Red Velvet in blue and purple

Work bathroom selfie because I had an early morning meeting - Cake Patterns Red Velvet dress again. Not yet hemmed.

Me Made May 23: Polka Dot Parade for Theme Friday

Me Made May 23: Polka Dot Parade for Friday Themes

Ms. Z did NOT want me taking any photos this morning—she ordered me to lie on the couch and snuggle instead. So this was the best I could get. Wearing one of my Cake Patterns Hummingbird peplum tops and a self-drafted comfy knit half-circle skirt.

Me Made May 24: Unblogged and Unhemmed

Me Made May 24: Quick Faux-Denim Skirt

Not yet blogged (or hemmed): Jalie 2681 gored knit skirt (trumpet skirt view E) in size V, with shorter length R. And striped elastic waistband. Fabric is a jegging faux denim knit from Mood. Top is Nettie by Closet Case files in Riley Blake polka dot knit, blogged here.

So... are you a knit-hemming stickler? Or do you just not care? Tips on getting nice level hems without a helper greatly welcome!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Double Wax Print Impulse Sewing (based on free tutorials - Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit, Oliver + S Lazy Days Skirt)

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

The impulse sewing bug strikes again! We were at my mom's house in Massachusetts this weekend and I wandered into her sewing room looking for a darning needle for my Hetty cardigan. Her fabric stash was sitting right there, so I just decided to look through it, out of you know, curiosity. And I saw this wax print fabric and I thought "Why don't I make Z and her baby cousin R some simple matching elastic-waist skirts?" So I did.

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

And then after the kids were in bed I saw my mom had some elastic thread and I thought "Why don't I make matching shirred tops?"

Presto! Instant matching wax print cuteness.

Of course, by the time I had both outfits ready for a photo shoot, six-month-old Baby R had fallen asleep for a nap. So I mostly got photos of Z running around in her new favorite outfit (plus a matching headband my mom threw together with her heavy-duty snap attaching machine):

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

The basics

Pattern: I used two free tutorials I'd been eyeing for a while — the Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit (to make the shirred tops—I just left off the bottom part) and the Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt. Both are just constructed from simple rectangles — the skirt is a full width of fabric gathered by an elastic waistband and trimmed with a ribbon hem, and the top is a rectangle with some elastic shirring and straps.

Fabric: "Veritable" Dutch wax print cotton borrowed from my mom's stash. She got it from my beloved Sew-Fisticated Discount Fabrics in Boston (see my review).

Size: I just went by the girls' waist measurements, and made the tops and skirts a bit long on them so they could wear for a while yet.

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

I remember the first time I realized it was possible to make simple items like skirts without (gasp!) an actual pattern—that many garments were nothing but rectangles or circles gathered up in different ways. At the time I went a little crazy and sewed like, six elastic-waist full skirts before I realized it wasn't always the most flattering look for me. But it works really well on these little girls!

Instructions: Both tutorials/patterns had excellent, clear, detailed instructions.

Construction notes: I added two extra rows of shirring on Z's top since she is so much bigger than R. And I added extra snaps to make the tops adjustable.

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

My favorite details are the ribbon hems...

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt
Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

(Can you believe the cuteness of those toes? GAH!)

And the purple snaps:

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

The stripes on this fabric are not even vaguely on-grain, so there's a bit of a jumbled tilted effect, especially in back:

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

All in all, an impulse sewing win!

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

A perfect outfit for running around and playing all summer long:

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

And for snuggling with cousins, of course:

Matching wax print cousins outfits: Made by Rae Baby Sunsuit as top, Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt

Sewing doesn't always have to be complicated. Even simple shapes can look awesome in a bright, fun fabric and with the right details. (Cute models don't hurt, either.)

So: Do you ever make simple garments from rectangles or sew from tutorials? Or are you all about using actual pattern pieces?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ill-Fitting Bathrobe or Stylish Peplum Jacket? (McCall's 5529, aka my oldest UFO)

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

So my oldest unfinished sewing object is finally finished... and I can't decide if I totally hate it or find it mildly acceptable.

I mean, there are a few pros here: it has raglan sleeves, it's an adjustable wrap style, and it's made from a stretchy (but not too stretchy) chartreuse RPL doubleknit. Plus: a peplum!

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

But... there is a big con here, and that is the poor fit. It's just way too huge all over—in the sleeves, the shoulders, the body, the front. Even when I wrap it as carefully as I can, it feels more "ill-fitting bathrobe" than "casual, yet chic jacket" to me.

This could be because I muslined and cut it out when I was seven months hugely pregnant back in 2010. I thought it might still work now because it is a wrap and a knit, but... I think it's also the pattern. The examples on the envelope look equally large and rather baggy and wrinkly in the sleeves—it should have been a warning sign that the model has her sleeves scrunched up:

McCalls 5529 Jackets

The basics

Pattern: McCall's 5529, a self-belted unlined raglan-sleeved cardigan/jacket with peplum, designed for wovens or stable knits. I believe it's out of print in the envelope edition, but I bought it as a download from SewingPatterns.com and tediously taped it all together. I made View C, with self-fabric belt and smooth non-gathered peplum. But I don't think I really recommend this pattern. The collar doesn't seem to know what it wants to do, the belt is rather "meh", and the peplum could be more fun, but isn't.

Fabric: Chartreuse Sophia doubleknit rayon/poly/lycra from Fabric.com (similar here on sale for $8.99/yard). It's a great fabric... BUT I think this would have worked better in a softer knit—like a sweater knit or stretchy French terry.

Size: According to my old notes I made a size 14, did a 2" FBA (adding four inches across the bust total), shortened the body by about four inches to hit my short waist... and added quite a bit of width to the front to accommodate my then-huge pregnant belly. I also took in the too-baggy sleeves by an INCH each but apparently that was not enough.

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

Instructions: Just fine—nothing exciting.

Construction notes: Back in 2010 I had originally been making this on the serger. When I picked up this UFO a few weeks ago the body and sleeves were together and all that remained to be done was attach the peplum and collar and sew up the belt. I finished it on my machine with a narrow zig-zag stitch.

I did the topstitching and hems with a regular long straight stitch since this doubleknit is so stable.

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

I slipstitched the inside of the collar by hand and it took me AGES—I ended up carrying it with me to playground excursions and such. A lot of work for such a mediocre result!

Wear: As lackluster as I feel about this make I do still think I will wear it, mainly to work. It's warm and cozy and I got quite a few compliments on it when I wore it to work Friday—mainly due to the color, I think. Chartreuse is kind of my thing, to say the least.

I have a theory that scrunching up the sleeves might help—thoughts?

Successes: My first jacket! OK, so it's an unlined unfitted knit belted wrap jacket--a glorified girly sweatshirt. But still--my first jacket!

Room for improvement?: The FIT! Next time I make a raglan-sleeve top, I want to see if I can make the armhole more comfortable, perhaps by adding a gusset.

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

I suppose I COULD take it apart and alter it to fit better... but I'm just DONE with this project. Whatever. At least the unfinished object pile is TOTALLY EMPTY. For now, anyway... I doubt I will ever make this pattern again and I can't say I recommend it.

My next knit jacket project bodes much better for success, as I KNOW the style is just perfect for me—the Cake Patterns Carmine Jacket (which I drew the cover flats for, naturally):

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