For the past two years, I’ve had a Tuesday/Thursday teaching schedule, which means I’ve only had to dress up to teach two days a week. This fall, I’m in for a big change: I’ll be on campus five days a week for the first time since my first semester of my doctorate, and I’ll be in the classroom every day. It’s not quite the schedule I was imagining for my fourth year and the beginning of writing my dissertation, but I’m looking forward to teaching a new class, TAing a survey course, and having a better chance of making it to the group fitness classes on campus.
More time in the classroom also means more of a workout for my professional wardrobe, so I am really happy to have finished my Grainline Morris blazer in a very wearable and versatile black rayon stretch twill. I have become such a muslin convert in recent years, and whipping up a muslin for this pattern really drove home how inappropriate boxy styles are for my figure. After starting with a size 6, I added some dramatic curves to the side seams and center back seam to account for my hourglass figure, and the shape suits me so much better now. I do have some tightness across my shoulders–an area I did not alter–when I reach up, though. I noticed this in the muslin and thought the stretch of my fashion fabric would make up for it, but unfortunately it didn’t this time.
There have been some complaints about the fronts of this pattern drooping, and I wish I had followed the advice in the sewalong to fuse interfacing to the front pieces in order to prevent that drooping. By the time I found that piece of advice, it was too late to add the interfacing, and I thought that I would be all right since I used a stretch woven rather than a knit. It’s not clear in these photos (sorry…it’s black fabric…), but I do have some puckering at the bottom of the fronts that could have been avoided. Next time. Since this blazer is unlined, I decided to have a bit of fun and bind the seam allowances. My technique–if you can call it that–is somewhere between a Hong Kong finish and a bias bound finish because I edgestitched down my binding rather than stitching in the ditch. This was my first attempt at binding seam allowances, so I went for an easy quilting cotton with polka dots. I bought a 1/2 yard for the binding and used just about all of it. This touch slowed me down, but I love how sharp the insides look!
Today, I wore my Morris with a me-made striped dress and wedge sandals. This is sure to be one of the most versatile garments in my wardrobe. I look forward to tossing it on over just about anything, and maybe making a few more.
It’s about time we chat about some knitting here at Red Knits, don’t you think? I continue to knit away, but I do spend more time at the sewing machine these days. The finished garments that I sew are the ones I need for my lifestyle lately, so the knitting doesn’t move along as quickly as it used to. I bought a skein of Noro Silk Garden Sock back when I was still working at the yarn shop and the Missoni for Target line was a big deal. Yeah, it’s been a while. I had chevrons on my mind, and I planned to use my skein of Noro to knit up a La Parisienne beret for myself.
A few years later and an inch or two into this hat, when I was probably somewhere above the Midwest on my way home after finishing my exams, I realized that I wasn’t knitting my hat. It turns out that this hat was really meant for one of my friends here in Pittsburgh, a woman I hadn’t even met when I first dreamed up this project. This hat is much better suited to her, both in style and in sizing, so please forgive the photos because it’s a little big on me.
Stitch patterns like these are so much fun to knit because they are so easy to work but look impressive, especially to non-knitters. This one was even easier because I didn’t have to choose two complementary colorways: I just worked from either end of my Noro, letting it do its thing.
This pattern is a freebie (link below), and it’s overall pretty good. Just watch out for the “slip 2, k1, p2sso.” In order to get a nice center line, you need to slip those first two stitches together as one and pass them over the knit stitch as one. If not, you won’t have a clear line going down the middle of the chevron.Pattern: La Parisienne by Caroline Hegwer (free on her blog)
Yarn: just over 1/2 skein Noro Silk Garden Sock S211
Needles: US 2 & 3 Susan Bates 16″ circs and dpns
Made for: B
Timeline: April 1-23 2015
Modifications: I think I added about an inch to the body of the hat, so it may have some extra slouch
Worst Part: that I didn’t have quite enough yarn to make a second hat
Best Part: watching the color progression unfold
There’s a little something I’ve had tucked away for a special treat. Now that my wonderful, but also stressful conference is done and I’ve been eliminated from the Super Online Sewing Match, I think now is the time to pull it out!
It seems like everyone in the sewing blogosphere has already rehashed their reasons for giving bramaking a try ad nauseum, and my reasons aren’t much different. I finally got around to figuring out my proper bra size last fall, and once I learned how pricey my size is–not to mention how difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores–making my own bras suddenly became a much more attractive idea.
I’ve decided to start with the Watson bra for a few reasons. I’m feeling a bit nervous about getting a good fit on handmade bras given my full on the bottom shape, and I hope that a soft bra style might be a little easier to fit than a structured underwire. This is a little silly, but I also have some airplane travel coming up, and I live in fear of getting patted down by TSA agents. I have a cheapy non-underwire bra that I wear when flying, and I absolutely hate it! I love the longline style of the Watson, and I’m hoping it offers enough support for me, at least when I’m just hanging out at home or sitting in an airport.
For a little more hand holding, I’m going to begin with this milliskin kit from Grey’s Fabrics, purchased during a sale last winter. I also purchased some fabric and trims for a second bra in pink last time I was in Minnesota, so hopefully it won’t take much more sourcing to get what I need for a second bra.
Since it’s Lingerie Sewing Month for the Sewcialists, I bet there are other first-timers out there. Anyone else finally jumping into bramaking this month?
Officially, Super Online Sewing Match contestants had ten days to sew Christine Haynes’ Marianne dress for Round 2. Practically speaking, I only had about 4 1/2 days to complete this challenge because I spent most of the last week in Montreal for the major international book history conference. Needless to say, I spent last Friday morning keeping a close eye on my email to find out whether I had made it to the second round and what we would be sewing. I was thrilled to learn that it was the Marianne dress, and, after spending a little while brainstorming potential design options, I headed to my local Jo-Ann to see what I could find. Fabricworm generously sponsored this round, but I had no time to spare waiting for fabric to ship–I’ll have to check them out another time. I hope this photo doesn’t make you cross-eyed! I used my macro lens to show that my main fabric is, indeed, a knit. It’s one of those denim-look fabrics that I imagine are meant to be used for jeggings. I came across it in the clearance section, and I decided to make a Marianne dress inspired by the classic combination of jeans and a t-shirt.
With fabric in hand, I got to work making a muslin. This was actually my first time using one of Christine’s patterns, though I’ve admired her work for a long time, so I definitely needed to check the fit. I was optimistic when I saw that my measurements fit neatly into a size 8, but the finished muslin was too big and looked frumpy on me. I got out the pins and made quite a few adjustments for a flattering fit. First, I went down to a size 6 all over. The most important thing that this did was raise that front yoke seam to the top of my bra cups, which immediately made for a nicer fit. I also nipped in the side seams significantly at the waist to avoid drag lines from the bust. There was even more work to be done in the back. I nipped in the side seams at the waist here as well, but I also removed 1 1/4″ total from the center back and did a 1″ swayback adjustment. Finally, I added 1″ in length to the dress along the lengthen/shorten lines because I never wear dresses that feel too short. Although my pattern pieces look fairly different from the originals, I think I’ve stayed true to Christine’s design lines while making this pattern work for my body.
Since I had removed some width from the center back, I had to do the same for the neck binding. This means that I have a slightly smaller neck opening than other Marianne dresses, but my head still fits through! In future versions, I may open up that neckline a bit to compensate and allow me to edgestitch down the seam allowance.
I am lucky enough to own a serger, but I almost never use it for the construction of a garment. I prefer to use the 3-step stretch stitch (also known as a lightning bolt stitch) for the seams, and finish with serging as I would on any other project so that I know the seams are nice and secure. In order to keep my seams from ruffling, I just adjust the differential setting on the serger.
This pattern calls for the shoulder seam to be reinforced with clear elastic, which I find really important for any dress or top made from knit fabric. However, rather than center the elastic on the seam line as the pattern calls for, I prefer to butt the elastic up to the seam, zig-zagging it within the seam allowance. This reduces the bulk in the seam, allowing it to be pressed nicely, but still provides plenty of support. I’ve been using a serger for a long tiem now, but it was only recently that I learned I could get a tidy finish on serging in the round such as this seam where the cuff attaches to the bottom of the sleeve. I used to have a little blip where I had come back to the beginning of the round, but now I’m able to maintain a pretty even seam allowance by serging just a few stitches past it and then pulling the seam out from under the presser foot just as I do when sewing. Much nicer!
The short sleeved view of Marianne would feel pretty good here in the heat of summer, but I decided to go with the long sleeved version instead. I have a decent collection of short-sleeved knit dresses from my sewing in the past year or so, and I just loved these cuffs too much to pass them up! I may have to wait a little while to wear it, but I think this version will make a nice three-season dress. When I started thinking through my jeans-and-a-tee-shirt concept, I considered all sorts of options I could incorporate into my dress to really drive the idea home: pockets, lots of extra topstitching…you get the idea. In the end, I chose to keep it simple. The buttons on my cuffs remind me of the buttons and rivets on jeans, and I did some double-needle topstitching on the hem. To make that topstitching pop, I used a silvery, slightly metallic rayon thread intended for machine embroidery.
It can be difficult to get a nice hem on knit fabrics, so I combine several techniques for a nice finish. I first serge the raw edge to clean it up and lend it some stability. Then I press up my hem allowance using Wonder Tape rather than pins to keep things perfectly intact until I can get to the sewing machine. I stitch with a double needle and a longer stitch length to allow for some stretch. To prevent tunneling, I drop down the tension as far as I can and use Wooly Nylon in my bobbin.
One last photo: my husband/photographer/artistic director decided that since my inspiration was “all American,” I should toss a football around in the photos. I do not know how to interact with any kind of sports balls, so that didn’t work out so well.
I’m just thrilled with how this dress turned out. I can’t wait to get some use out of it when the weather cools down, and I may have to make some short sleeved versions before then. If you’re looking to try sewing knits for the first time, this pattern would be a great start.
I’ve had quite the little shirtmaking operation going this summer. I’ve already posted about my bicycle birthday blouse, and today I have two more shirts to share: one for me, and one for Steve.
It took a long time to find the perfect fit for Steve’s shirt, but once we finally did, it was completely perfect. I haven’t made a single change to McCall’s 6613 since the first version I made last fall. This time, Steve chose a lightweight Robert Kaufman chambray for summer which, as you can see in the top photo, wrinkles very easily–those wrinkles are just from him bending down to tie his shoe! Luckily, that’s about as bad as it gets because the shirt didn’t seem be any worse off when he came home from work.
For this version, Steve asked for a rounded corner pocket with a button but no flap. I guess he likes to have a button on his pocket even if he doesn’t use it.
Speaking of buttons, Steve loves button down collars and always asks for buttons not only on the front collar points, but also in the middle of the back. Apparently these buttons are key for keeping one’s bow tie in place–who knew?
Although I’m not doing much that’s new on these shirts, I am slowly but surely getting better at shirtmaking. My technique is getting more precise, and they are taking a little less time to sew each time.
I plan to sew up at least one more shirt for Steve this summer, and hopefully I’ll be able to assemble it before our trip to visit my parents. Much as I love my sewing machine, its 3-step buttonholes aren’t much fun. I’d love to zip through them on Mom’s machine.
I’m afraid the blouse I made for myself looks way better in person than it does in these photos. Sorry!
This is another version–my third, actually–of Vogue 8772. For these new versions, I made a few adjustments based on last year’s wearable muslin. I took a small full bust adjustment to keep the button band from gaping, and I shortened the sleeves by 1″. I think I could actually stand to lose a little more length on the sleeves, so I may give that a try next time.
In the back, I took a swayback adjustment. This is becoming my most important standard adjustment by far, and I’m learning to make it on all sorts of different backs.
Since I’ve been working on my shirtmaking skills, I’ve been dissatisfied with my collar and stand insertion. I just didn’t feel like I could get a professional finish in this area despite trying many different techniques. Well, I think I’ve found The One. Tasia recently posted a series of photo tutorials on Sewaholic based on the techniques in David Coffin’s Shirtmaking, and this presentation seems to have worked for me better than the illustrations in the original book. My collar stands aren’t perfect yet, but they are so much better than they were. A few more shirts, and I think I’ll have it down!
Thank you all so much for your kind words on my Sutton Blouse. I’m excited to advance to Round 2 of the Super Online Sewing Match–we’re making Christine Haynes’ Marianne dress!
When the organizers announced that the Super Online Sewing Match Round 1 challenge was going to be the True Bias Sutton Blouse, I felt as though they had chosen the pattern especially to help me fill a gap in my wardrobe! I posted in my professional summer wardrobe boost plans that I could use some summer blouses that can be dressed up for work, but didn’t think I would get around to making one before my upcoming academic conference. This was partially because I had some other sewing planned, but also because I was secretly hoping that I would be chosen for SOSM. Lucky me–I get to be a contestant and get a new summer blouse! I doubt that I would have selected this pattern on my own because it is so much looser than my usual makes, but it turns out that this blouse is exactly what I was looking for.
Perhaps the most challenging part of this project was choosing fabric. Harts Fabric was kind enough to sponsor this round of the contest, and I took advantage of their gift certificate to try out a new-to-me fabric supplier. Since I want to wear this blouse to my upcoming conference, I needed to be a bit conservative in my fabric selection: much as I love them, lace and sheers were out. Luckily, bright, bold florals are totally acceptable! I settled upon this Joel Dewberry rayon challis and then headed to the solids section to choose a contrast for my yoke. It might have been nice to pull out a pink or yellow, but I didn’t trust my monitor to give me an accurate color match to the print. Instead, I went with a gray rayon twill that I knew would look great whether or not it was an exact match, tone down the color a bit, and coordinate nicely with a neutral dress pant or skirt.
While I waited for my fabric to arrive, I made up a full muslin in a straight size 8 to both check the fit and make sure I had all of the techniques down. And let me tell you, done up in an unbleached muslin, this style is more Orange is the New Black than breezy summer chic! You really need a fabric with some drape to let this design shine. All of my alterations were standard for me, but I did pull out my trusty Fit for Real People since I hadn’t done them on a kimono style top before. In the front, I did a 1/2″ full bust adjustment because my side seams were unbalanced, causing the front to tent.
In the back, I did a 1/2″ narrow back adjustment and 1 1/2″ swayback adjustment. I wasn’t sure that these alterations would be necessary when I first looked at the pattern, but the hem line of my muslin curved down around my bum–an alteration was definitely necessary. A good reason to make a muslin, especially for a new-to-me designer.
I wasn’t initially going to bother with matching this shifty fabric with a complex print, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a try! With the help of this Sewaholic tutorial, a nice cup of coffee, and some patience, I managed to disguise the center front seam and preserve this beautiful print.
The instructions for this pattern call for French seams, which are exactly what I would have used with any light, fluid fabric like this one. This attention to seam finishes along with the unstructured nature of the blouse makes me think this would be a great pattern for those who are interested in working with more challenging fabrics like some of those called for in the pattern for the first time.
The neckline is meant to be finished with a self bias binding, but I was concerned that using either one of my fashion fabrics would allow for the binding to show through to the right side of the garment in the lighter areas of my print. Instead, I used an off white piece from my stash–it’s actually an old sheet–for my bias binding, and it worked perfectly.
Because of the split hem on this design, there’s no tidy way to do French side seams, so the instructions call for hemmed seam allowances. The edges are first finished off in your preferred method to prevent fraying–I serged in a light gray thread–and then turned under and stitched. This provides a clean finish consistent with the rest of the blouse.
Speaking of the split hem, this is not a style that I typically wear. In fact, I can’t stand those high/low dresses that go from above the knee down to the ankle. But I don’t have anything like this in my wardrobe and thought I would give it a try. As it turns out, I quite like it! And I can always tuck the blouse into a skirt for a dressier look.
I used gray thread to topstitch the hem and the rest of the top, including some edgestitching along the yokes to lend them a bit more stability. Although the instructions call for backstitching, I only backstitch when reinforcement is needed, so rarely do when topstitching. Instead, I tie knots everywhere in my sewing for a cleaner finish. I also added a bit of handstitching for reinforcement at the top of the slit in the form of a triangle from one of my technique books.
My aim in most of the garments I make is versatility, and I think I’ve really gotten that with this top. I’m looking forward to wearing it all summer long, not only with jeans as I did here, but also with skirts, dress pants, and maybe even my pink Maritime shorts.
Many thanks to my husband, Steven, for taking these photos at the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens before the rain came!
Hi there! If you’ve made your way over from the Sew Mama Sew Super Online Sewing Match contestant announcement post, welcome to my blog! I call it Red Knits because it began as a knitting blog, but now I spend just as much time on sewing and also post about the odd craft project here and there. I am so excited to be a contestant amongst such a talented group of women, and I’m enjoying the calm before the first challenge begins tomorrow.
This dress is a version of McCall’s 6711, one of those wardrobe patterns that also includes a blazer, pants, skirt, and a top. Even though the pattern calls for wovens, I made it up in a blue and green striped knit that was just begging to be a casual summer dress.
There is some “visual interest” in the back stripe placement that’s really just a side effect of my stripe matching. I was able to stripe match throughout the majority of the dress, and I also eliminated several seams by cutting on the fold, but when it was time to cut the back bodice piece I simply didn’t have a large enough piece of fabric left to cut with horizontal stripes. This fabric has a four way stretch, and there’s obviously plenty of ease in the blouson style, so it worked out just fine and, I think, looks pretty cute.
Since I was sewing with a knit rather than the woven the pattern called for, I selected my size by holding the back yoke piece up to my shoulders. I’m so glad I did, because I ended up using a much smaller size than usual, and I think I would do so even if I had gone with a woven.
My only other alteration was hacking a few inches off of the hem. Although I didn’t take any inside shots, the instructions lead to a nice, clean finish.
I’ve already worn this dress out for drinks with friends under a white denim jacket, and I know it will continue to get a lot of use all summer long.
How has it taken me this long to make a solid green dress? I’m a redhead! Green is our color!
I tend to begin most of my projects, sewing and otherwise, with the pattern or at least a specific garment in mind, but this time I began with the fabric. After seeing so many bloggers rave about scuba knits, I wanted to try one for myself. This was listed as a scuba knit on fabric.com when I ordered it over the winter, but I have a feeling it was miscategorized. The texture and hand weren’t what I expected, but I’m still very happy with how the fabric worked in my version of Simplicity 2145, which I hear is a Project Runway knockoff of Kate Middleton’s engagement dress.
I started with a size 10, but I did so many alterations that I’m honestly not sure what I ended up with. In the front, I added some extra room at the bust, though I may have taken it out later. What I do know is that I eliminated the neckline facings because I’ve read about many people having trouble getting the facings to lie nicely on wrap dresses and had a feeling the same issue would occur here. I simply did a narrow hem before basting together the front bodice split crossover.
In the back, I pulled out a 2″ wedge from the top of the center back to avoid gaping. I was also able to omit the zipper despite the limited stretch of my knit fabric, so I’m guessing it would only be necessary when using a woven. Some pattern reviews indicated that the pleats ended in an odd place, so I waited until I had stitched them all and had a chance to try the dress on before tying them all off. I kept the front pleats at the length on the pattern, but I shortened the back pleats by 1 1/2″.
This is certainly the fanciest garment in my “casual coffee dates” summer wardrobe boost, but I think it’s a dress that can work for a lot of different situations. It’s an easy care fabric, so I see no reason not to wear it to an actual coffee date, but it could also be dressed up quite a bit with fancier shoes and jewelry for something like a wedding. Another versatile garment for my handmade, versatile wardrobe!
I am so excited to be heading to Montreal next month to present my work at the major academic conference in my field. It will be my first time at this particular conference as well as my first visit to Quebec, and I am so excited and nervous!
In addition to being an essential part of academic life, conferences are also a great opportunity to spruce up a professional wardrobe a little bit at a time while boosting confidence. I’m especially feeling the need for a wardrobe boost for this conference because 1) it’s in the summer, and we all know how much trouble I have dressing well in the heat, and 2) I’m a little bigger on the bottom than I used to be, so my professional wardrobe isn’t as extensive as it once was. I have a few projects in mind for this particular conference:
A pair of dress pants that can be worn with either heels or flats and a wide variety of tops. I’m going to begin with the Sewaholic Thurlow pattern in the hopes that it’s closer to fitting my large hip-to-waist ratio than my last trouser attempt. However, I want to make these pants skinny and very slightly cropped so they work with all sorts of shoes in warmer weather. For the fabric, I chose this dove gray lightweight suiting.
A sheath dress to wear to my presentation and, later that evening, dress up for the banquet. I will use Vogue 8766 because the pattern accompanies a Craftsy class I have and have been meaning to take. Both the class and the pattern were free thanks to some special email offer! I’m planning to make the sleeveless, straight skirt version (as in the blue fashion illustration) so that I can wear it under a blazer during the day, and then remove the blazer and add some fun jewelry for the banquet. The fabric is a stretch cotton sateen.
This may look like I’m making a suit, but I actually plan to make separates that won’t be worn together, at least for now. I’m going with the Grainline Morris blazer to be worn over the sheath dress one day and a top and pants on another. I’ll also make a straight skirt using Simplicity 2475 view B, an Amazing Fit pattern, to be worn with a blouse and cardigan. They’ll both be out of the same rayon/nylon/spandex stretch twill, which is in fact black despite what my camera tells you.
I would also love to make a sleeveless top to wear underneath the blazer because I have so few of them, but I already have an ambitious plan here, so that may not happen. I am so pleased that a huge sale at JoAnn made it doable to add to my warm weather professional wardrobe, and I know I’ll be so much more comfortable at both the conference and my August classes in some fabulous new clothes.
First thing is first: it’s time to trace off the Thurlow pattern and work up a muslin. I’m armed with Pants for Real People and my previous trouser experience, so hopefully the path isn’t too rocky!
Now that I’ve made up a full workout outfit, there’s no excuse to avoid the gym! If you’re looking to make some workout gear quickly, head over to Fehr Trade. I cut out both of these pieces in one evening and made them up in another two evenings–just in time for some group fitness classes this week!
Thanks so much to everyone who chimed in on my last post about being more active. Steve and I have continued our effort to take several nice, long walks each week, and I’ve discovered that my university continues to offer (free!) group fitness classes in the summer. I tried Zumba for the first time yesterday–in this very outfit, I might add–and it was *such* a good time!
Anyway, on to the sewing. These may look like basic black capris, but they are exactly what I needed. Maybe I’ll add some crazier workout clothes once I’ve built up a bit of a wardrobe, but for now I need something simple enough that no one will notice if I wear the same leggings more than once in a week (washing in between, of course!). I ordered this poly/spandex blend from Fabric.com and love it so much that I went back to see if I could get it in some other colors. No luck: not only do they not have other colors, but they are out of the black. I bought enough to make at least one more pair of capris, and then I’ll have to try something new.
These Steeplechase leggings have the added bonus of some interesting style lines. Despite the crazy shape of the pattern pieces, these come together very quickly and easily. In a later pair, I’d like to add some piping to really show off the curves in this pattern.
This top is my first version of the XYT top, and I don’t think it will take much tweaking to get just right. Since I knew this was going to be a trial version, I turned to my leftover knit fabric stash and pulled out this green scuba knit for the front and upper back and a black cotton/poly blend for the lower back. Both fabrics are leftover from projects that are coming up on this here blog, and while neither one is ideal for this kind of top, they work just fine for this test version.
Since most (all?) of my sports bras are racer back or strappy Y style, I went with the “Y” variation of this pattern. Obviously I’ve got some fun “colorblocking” (is it even fair to call it that?) going on, and I tried to lend the top some cohesiveness by using green thread for topstitching throughout. I found that the instructions for both patterns were generally quite good, though I did get a little confused about elastic insertion on the neckline here, as it wasn’t entirely clear whether or not the stretch should occur evenly around the neck. I fudged my way through it and it turned out fine, but I could see it being a bit confusing for seamstresses who don’t have a lot of experience sewing with knits.
I consider this first version of workout gear a great success. I don’t have anything to flex just yet, but hopefully I will soon!