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Red Goes Vintage

July 20, 2014

Since all of this packing (over halfway there now!) is really messing with my sewing and knitting time, I’m here today with a top that’s been finished but unblogged for a while.
B4985Really, though, this story begins with the skirt. I’ve been swing dancing for nearly ten years now–mostly lindy hop, with some Charleston, East Coast, Balboa, and Blues thrown in–and part of modern swing culture for many dancers is getting dressed up in vintage styles for dances, particularly those with live bands. Because my mom knows this, loves me, and loves to sew, she made me this 1940s Arches Skirt from Decades of Style out of a beautiful wool a few years ago.

I loved and wore the skirt right away, but I didn’t feel that any of the tops I had in my closet really did it justice. Enter Butterick 4985, a fitted blouse with bow collar tie and gathered sleeves, out of a navy cotton.
B4985 with victory rollsThis blouse isn’t vintage accurate by any means, but it’s a great complement to the skirt. I think it works especially well with stacked heels, red lipstick, and victory rolls. That’s my first successful version of the hairstyle pictured above–previous attempts have ended in cursing and tears.

I was thrilled with this outfit when I headed to a dance earlier this summer, but I really knew I had hit the mark when the leader of the Boilermaker Jazz Band, one of the best hot jazz bands in the world today, thanked me for bringing my 40s and “prettying the place up.” Best. Compliment. Ever.

UFO Mondays: Bex

July 14, 2014

Welp, this is about how my week has been:
Bex UFOThat’s not even a complete cuff for Bex, last week’s UFO. Between reading for comps and packing all of my belongings, I’ve been a little short on crafting time lately. And I’ve also been stretching my limited crafting time in a few too many directions (Goodale cardigan – Steve’s shirt – muslin for my OAL bodice), so I haven’t made much of an effort to pull out this complex sock.

I did, however, bring it along on our trip to State College this week, so hopefully I’ll get a few rows in over the next several days. And if not, well, pretty much everything else is a priority over this project until we get settled into the new apartment.

The Bag That Nearly Did Me In

July 11, 2014

Weekender BagShe goes by many names. The official one is “Weekender,” of course. And mom not-so-fondly referred to her as “Lucifer.” Me, I tended to favor “f*cking piece of sh*t.” I do have those fancy English degrees, after all.
Weekender Bag liningNow that this construction ordeal is finally over after many months going in and out of time out, I’m learning to love her. She’s lined in one of my favorite shades of pink, and she has a bonus elasticized pocket so that my iPad can be, almost literally, attached to my hip. In defiance of Amy Butler’s instructions, she has a heavy duty separating zipper–we made it work.
Weekender BagOn the outside, she’s cute and just a little bit vintage, with pockets on all four sides to provide easy access to a cell phone, lipstick, or pair of sunglasses. There are small feet on the bottom to protect it from getting dirty. Those handles are sturdy, and the piping, though it was a b*tch to sew, looks oh so polished.
Weekender BagYes, I think I like this bag now. But friends, if you ever hear me chattering about whipping up another of these bags, please remind me of the blood, sweat, tears, and panic attacks (yes, I mean all of these quite seriously and literally) that went into this bag. Remind me that even my patient seamstress mother was tempted to toss the nearly completed bag in the garbage. Remind me that this bag made me question my motivations for sewing anything ever.

And then slap me in the face and take the pattern away from me. Because this one is the last one.

Project Organization with Plastic Bags

July 9, 2014

I recently shared how I organize my projects with notecards to avoid digging through all of my WIPs, UFOs, and planned projects to pick out the next one to work on. Today, I thought I’d share how I organize the projects themselves to make digging through them a little easier.
Plastic Bag Project OrganizationFor me, it’s all about the plastic bags. They’re not pretty, but they keep everything neat, clean, and together. I’m able to grab one of these bags and know that just about everything I need for the project–or at least everything I’ve already obtained–is inside.

Most of my sewing projects are just the right size for a standard plastic shopping bag. Since those aren’t typically transparent, I label them with a white shipping label and a sharpie to avoid opening the bag to see what’s inside. My knitting projects often fit in quart or gallon size zip top Hefty bags, and since they’re transparent, I don’t tend to label them. I also tend to ditch these plastic bags when I’m actually working on the projects, preferring a sturdier bag like this amazing Big Bang Theory bag that KG just gave me (thanks so much!!).

I might go with something a little prettier in the future, like the tidy little boxes I see some other bloggers using, when I have a permanent living situation, but this baggie system works really well as I venture between apartments.

A Noni Bag for Grandma

July 8, 2014

Noni BagSome people shell out the big bucks for sewing camps with well known teachers. I just pack up my problematic projects and bring them along when I visit my mom! This last trip, my suitcase was bursting with “stuck” projects, and one of them was this Noni Cherry Blossom bag for my grandma.
Noni Bag LiningThe knitting, felting, and assembly of the outer portion of this bag was no big deal (although I need to have more patience and allow projects to felt longer), but it’s been sitting in my UFO drawer waiting for lining for years. The shape of this bag made the lining tricky, and there was absolutely no direction for lining the bag in the instructions. It took some trial and error to get things right, but the lining is looking just fine after some direction and help from mom.
Noni Bag with GrandmaI didn’t even have to find room for the finished bag in my suitcase because I had a chance to stop by Grandma’s for a visit. She’s a big fan of felted bags, and I think she likes this one!

Pattern: Noni #113 Cherry Blossom Bags
Yarn: Cascade 220 #9407, 9408, 7802, and a couple other colors
Needles: ?
Made for: Grandma Arlene
Timeline: 2007 – 2 July 2014
Modifications: none
Worst Part: the lining. obviously.
Best Part: making a felted bag for a grateful recipient

UFO Mondays: Washcloths and Bex

July 7, 2014

Granny Square WashclothsMy sister’s granny square washcloths are finished, blocked, and tucked away for the holidays. I made a set of seven washcloths out of Tahki Cotton Classic using a variety of motifs from 50 Fabulous Crochet Squares (Leisure Arts #4420) and backed with motif #90 from Beyond-the-Square Crochet Motifs: 144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shapes by Edie Eckman. I won’t bore you with the all of the details about these washcloths, but you can find the colors and motifs I used by looking at my ravelry notebook and searching “washcloth” if you’re interested.

Normally, the only crochet I do is for edging on knitted projects, and this set of washcloths was a great way to expand my crochet skills. You can see the difference by looking at the first washcloth I made, the purple and brown one in the upper right corner, and comparing it to the last one I finished, the cotton candy colors to the lower right of center. I see a marked difference between the two, especially in keeping those corners nice and square, and I’m pretty proud of that!
Bex UFOMy next UFO is Bex, the very last sock in Sock Innovation project! I dearly love these intricate socks I’ve been knitting, and I’m not going to stop making crazy socks once the project is over, but I will be thrilled to put all of these second socks behind me!

Last seen: July 2009 (exactly 5 years ago today, actually)

Reason for abandonment: the Sock Innovation project  that resulted in a lot of single socks

Assessment: my notes show that this was the most time consuming of the patterns, so I’ll have to enforce my “little bit each day” rule. I’m likely heading out of town later this week, so that should also allow some extra knitting time.

A Maleficent Swimsuit

July 6, 2014

We’re just back from a truly fantastic week spent with family and friends in Minnesota. We always love the chance to get back to our beloved Minnesota, but this trip was especially nice because we didn’t have any of the usual holiday obligations, just lots of time for fun! Some of that time was spent in the sewing room with Mom–more on that later–but luckily I didn’t have to waste any of that time on my swimsuit because I managed to finish it well before we left despite having to re-cut the top and start over more than once.
Purple SwimsuitI’ll apologize upfront for the lack of modeled shots, but 1) I only wore it after dark–that’s when we tend to use the hot tub–and I’m too lazy to change in the middle of the day, and 2) I’m a young woman teaching college students and don’t love the idea of modeled swimsuit photos on the blog right now.

This swimsuit might skew more towards studio dance costume than sultry bathing suit, but it has the coverage I’m looking for, which was my primary goal in whipping together my own suit.
Halter topI used McCall’s 5400 for the halter style top, and it fit me without alterations. The only change I made was to cannibalize an old swimsuit for some bra cups, which I slipped between the outer fabric and lining and tacked in place when the top was completely finished.

When I introduced this project, I hoped that the sequined contrast fabric would be worth the inevitable gummed up needle. It wasn’t. Rather than gumming things up, this fabric shredded my thread, at times making it impossible to stitch more than a few inches at a time. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish the project at all, but at some point my sewing machine decided to tolerate the fabric again, and I was able to finish the top soon thereafter.
Boyshort bottomsThese boyshort bottoms are based on McCall’s 3566, an out of print pattern. I used the main pattern pieces, but I added some length for an approximately 2″ inseam and added a full lining rather than the small crotch piece included in the pattern. I also added a waistband, but that was an unplanned modification. My mom had suggested basting the pieces together to check fit before stitching with a zigzag or stretch stitch (neither is fun to unpick), and when I did, the rise was much too low in back. Rather than lowering the waist further by folding in the elastic the pattern called for, I added a very comfortable waistband that does not have any elastic. I will definitely repeat this modification in any future boyshort bottoms.

This is perhaps the sportiest garment I’ve ever sewn, so I’m entering it in the Sporty Summer Sewathon over on Did You Make That? With my plans to exercise beyond dancing now that my work life is so sedentary, perhaps there will be more sporty makes in the future. I can certainly see myself making more swimsuits…just so long as I stick with traditional swimsuit fabrics.

Outfit Along!

July 2, 2014

You’ve heard of Lauren and Andi’s Outfit Along, right? Of course you have!

I’ve wanted to join in ever since they made the announcement, but I wasn’t sure how to do so without buying bunch of new materials since I’m trying to use up as much of what I have as I can before we move. I dug through my summer UFO list and came up with Goodale.
Goodale failThat’s right, this sweater was essentially finished when I realized it was waaay too big–what was I thinking?! I ripped out the whole thing, did some new gauge swatches on smaller needles, and was sure to wash them this time, a step I may have skipped last time. It’s back on a much smaller set of needles and looking much better this time.
Outfit Along materialsAfter picking out this UFO for the sweater, I realized that I actually had some fabric tucked away for a dress that would like nice with the yarn. I pondered a few different dress patterns before deciding to go with Simplicity 1803, the “official” Outfit Along pattern.

I’m so excited to put together this outfit, and I love the concept of an Outfit Along. It seems like more and more bloggers are both knitting and sewing, so a project like this just makes sense!


Project Organization Tip

June 25, 2014

Project Card HolderWhenever I head to the fabric store, I bring this little red index card holder along with me. It’s the key to my sewing sanity.

Last year, I found that each time I wanted to work on a project, I would end up digging through all of my sewing projects, some of them in progress and some of them with supplies purchased, before deciding what to sew next. Dragging out all of those projects was messy and a waste of my time, so I decided to organize my projects in a way that would be portable and easy to flip through.
Project Cards FrontInside is an index card for each of my projects. On the front of the card is the name of the pattern and a swatch of the fabric(s) I’m using. This comes in really handy when there’s a sale on thread or notions and I’m unexpectedly picking up supplies to get a good deal.
Project Cards BackOn the back is a list of supplies I still need to purchase and, if the project has been tucked away before finishing, a note about where I left off.

My little card holder also has enough room to include swatches of the fabrics in my small stash and their yardages in case I have a fabric in mind for a pattern I come across.

I had all of the supplies for this organizational system on hand, so it cost me nothing but the upfront time of putting it together, and it’s really paid off for me over the last year. Now that I’m looking at these pictures, all that’s missing is a little decoration on the outside of the case to make it a little cuter!

Let’s Try Swimwear

June 24, 2014

I had planned to make a new swimsuit for my trip to DisneyWorld next year, but, as I mentioned last post, our summer travel plans have changed. Now I need a new swimsuit asap–the one I’ve been using for the past few years is too small on top, and it’s just not going to work when I’m around anyone besides immediate family, if you know what I mean…

Given the time crunch, I’d be happy to buy a RTW suit, but I’m having a hard time finding boyshort swim bottoms in the shops for a reasonable price. Is everyone else perfectly happy wearing bikini bottoms? Because I have trouble believing I’m the only one who wants a little more coverage. Luckily, my mom had a boyshort pattern in her stash, so I just need to hit the sewing machine before our flight takes off next week.
Purple SwimsuitThe bottom pattern, McCalls 3566, is now out of print, but I just picked up the top pattern, McCalls 5400, on sale last weekend after having a really hard time finding any swimsuit patterns at all in the current Big 4 books. Since I need this swimsuit next week, I was stuck with the limited selection at my local big box store. I was hoping for at least a small selection of prints, but I was pretty much stuck with solids. I’m simply not willing to spend my sewing time on a boring solid suit, so I picked up some bling for a contrast band on the top. It’s certain to gum up my machine’s needle: hopefully it will be worth it.

This isn’t my first time making swimwear, but it’s my first time in a long while. Here’s hoping it goes smoothly so I have something to wear in the hot tub (and maybe on the boat) next week.


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