Feb 142015
 

I’ve finally finished the baby blocks that I started about three months ago!  Considering that I made 48 blocks, I’m sure any reasonable person would think that a titch excessive but I’d prefer to have too many blocks than too few.

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I first found the idea for these blocks on Pinterest.  Naturally, now that baby is on the way, I’ve spent a lot of time browsing baby and toddler crafts and Pinterest and my ‘queue’ of things I want to make overfloweth.

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The instructions that were included with the original pin that I saw for these blocks, unfortunately, weren’t very good.  They basically suggested that you cut upholstery foam into 4″ cubes, cut fabric into 5″ squares (0.5″ for the seam allowance on each side), sew 6 squares of fabric together to form a fabric cube (leaving one side unsewn), squish the foam cube into the fabric cube, and handstitch the unsewn side.  VOILA!  A perfect baby block.

Of course, my blocks are FAR from perfect.

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The first problem I ran into was cutting out the upholstery foam.  The Pinterest tutorial suggested that one can simply use ordinary scissors  for the job.  Nope.  One does not simply use scissors to cut upholstery foam!  I ruined several pieces of foam attempting that.  Upon further research, I learned that a much more successful and precise approach is to use an electric carving knife.  I then embarked on a journey to find such a device at a thrift store and, lo and behold, found one for just a few dollars at only the second thrift store that I went to.  And I was equally delighted that cutting the foam using an electric carving knife was also successful.  Hooray!

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The other problem I encountered from the instructions was in cutting the fabric with a 0.5″ seam allowance on each side, resulting in a fabric cube that was the same size as the block.  After I cut out ALL of the fabric and sewed together my first fabric cube, I squished in the block and found that the fabric was much too loose and floppy. I removed the foam from the fabric and resewed all of the sides, so that there would be some negative ease, and that worked much better to fill up the block.  I later found an Amy Butler sewing for babies book wherein she has a pattern and instructions for blocks, and she likewise recommends negative ease.

This meant that I had to sew all of my fabric sides with a 5/8″ seam allowance (which was just a lot of wasted fabric).  I also chose to trim the excess with pinking shears.  And of course, handstitching was a great opportunity for me to make that final edge look bad.

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So yes, these blocks are not perfect.  But they are soft and squishy, with some different colors and patterns of fabric.  They can be stacked in many different ways, matching colors and patterns, or not matching.

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And one of the joys of building blocks is always knocking one’s creation over into a big block heap.

As a kid, I loved playing with blocks… so of course, anticipating my own baby is an opportunity to recreate some of my favorite childhood moments.

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Dec 282014
 

After finishing my winter coat project, I had planned to sew a nice blouse but instead found myself gravitating towards patterns for knit dresses.  I have, after all, been wearing a lot of knit dresses this winter, with wool tights, boots, and of course a handknit sweater (or two).  So it made sense to make more of what I’ve felt like wearing.

This is M6697, a knit pullover, biased, and flared dress and I thought it might be a good way to use some of my stashed knit fabric.  I’m mostly happy with my fabric choices – – the purple fabric is probably a heavier weight than would be ideal for this dress and it doesn’t drape perfectly (it also can get rather clingy against my wool tights despite my wearing a slip underneath) and the flower fabric is a bit too flowery, even for me.

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Happily, this pattern was very quick and easy!  I could have easily started and completed it in one evening, but I spread it over two days instead.  Cutting out the pattern pieces and then the fabric was definitely the most time consuming part of this project.  And now that my pattern pieces are all cut to size, making another version of this dress will be a breeze!

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Overall, I’m very happy with the fit of this dress.  I cut a size 8 in the top part and then graded out to a 12 in the hips.  I should probably not admit to the internets that I didn’t make a muslin or do any fitting and didn’t even try it on as I sewed… instead, I sewed the entire dress and then threw it on to see how it fit.  I also want to mention that I’m very pleased with the shape of the neckline – – it’s just perfect for me.

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I will definitely be making another version of this dress.  On the pattern envelope, one of the drawings features this dress in gradient fabric colors, starting with the lightest color on the bottom corner and getting darker all the way to the opposite shoulder.  That sounds appealing to me, as does simply using more subdued colors.

Dec 262014
 

I’m officially calling this sewing project DONE.  This is the winter coat that I’ve been working on (very haphazardly) for months and it was a huge SLOG, so cumbersome, unwieldy, and bulky.  I’m mostly happy with the “finished” result, but I’m mainly happy to be done with it.  And, I’m honestly happy to be done with it in time to enjoy wearing it during the cold winter.

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Just as a reminder, I used a vintage sewing pattern – S5930 – and the outer fabric is boiled wool, unerlined with fleece (so warm!) and had intended to line it with some vintage taffeta.  Because I just really need to be DONE with this project, the full taffeta lining is not currently attached to the coat.  Maybe one day, after I have regained my sewing mojo, I will attach it, but maybe not.  When the process of sewing for me is not enjoyable, it’s very difficult for me to continue with a project, and this was my struggle with this project.

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The coat turned out pretty okay.  I think it would hang better with a nice taffeta lining (of course!) but it fits just the way that I had wanted (big enough to wear multiple sweaters underneath) and the bottom hem hits just at my knees.  The big front patch pockets are awesome and the collar can be worn upright or folded down.  The coat is very warm, cozy, and comfortable.  It also weighs about 30 pounds and is fairly cumbersome to lug around if I’m not wearing it.

Oh, and in the below photos, I was trying to pose with the deer in the background (we have lots of urban deer in Boise) but it’s mostly just their butts facing the camera.

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I’m very much enjoying my current sewing project, the foam blocks that I wrote about in my previous post.  They are so quick and easy, not bulky or cumbersome.  Fortunately, I do like my finished coat and maybe one day I will attach the taffeta lining.  Maybe.

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Dec 222014
 

With the longest night of the year in the past, I am excited for more sunshine in my life.  The SADs haven’t hit too hard this year, though in the past few weeks I’ve had several evenings where I felt pretty listless and weird.  I love the summers, when the sun doesn’t set until 10pm, but I really struggle in the winter when it’s dark by 4:30.

Of course, the best way to beat the SADs is to stay busy!  Josh and I have been trying to go on some adventures when the weather permits.  Last weekend, we went out to the Bruneau Sand Dunes and had a glorious day hiking around in the sunshine.

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Several weeks before that, the only thing to do was snowshoeing on a very gray day.  Part of our challenge this year of doing adventures is that we haven’t been feeling in top form – – Josh hurt his back while riding his bike on the ice and I’ve been feeling off.

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I’ve been doing a lot of knitting and sewing.  This is a doubleknit blanket that I am working on, to stash bust a lot of Jamieson DK wool that has been collecting dust for a long time.

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The pattern is derived from my Whorl Cowl, which I recently released and haven’t gotten around to writing anything about.

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And I’m almost finished with my coat (just need to add one more toggle button).  This project has been such a SLOG and I kind of want to hide the coat away and never look at it again.

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I have started on a fun sewing project!  I’m making foam blocks, using upholstery foam and fat quarters.  I saw the idea on Pinterest and it seemed like such a fun and easy project, perfect to get over the slog coat project.

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Interestingly, none of the helpful Pinterest tutorials mentioned anything about how to actually cut upholstery foam.  At first, I tried taking scissors to it, which resulted in a horrible butcher job.  I also tried a variety of knives before doing research about how best to cut it.  The internet suggested that an electric carving knife would be best.  So I headed out to various thrift stores, on a mission to find a used one.  And much to my delight, I only had to go to two thrift stores before I found one and it was only $5!  As you can see, it cuts the foam pretty well!

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And I’ve got a couple of blocks done!  This project is nice because the fabric is so easy to work with (as opposed to thick layers of wool and fleece) and is pretty satisfying in how quick and easy it is to make up a single block.  I’ve got enough foam for 49 blocks.

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I’m also gearing up to start working on this blouse in some nice Ana Sui shirting that I got on sale from Mood.

Anyway, sorry for the silence around here.  The SADs definitely make me less motivated to keep up with the old blog!

 

Oct 022014
 

Greetings, everyone!  It’s been about a month since I last posted about my knitting and sewing progress and I wanted to give you a quick update.

First of all, the sweater that was in progress last month is all knit up and I’m delighted with how it turned out! I’m hoping to release the pattern soon so I’ll tell you more about this sweater then.

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Speaking of knitting patterns, for those of you working on the Umbra & Penumbra sweater, I’ve been receiving some questions about the  yoke and am putting together a FAQs post which I hope to publish here on my blog soon.  If you are someone who has been confused by any part of the instructions, please know that I always WELCOME anyone to email me with questions.  Alternatively, in the comments of my original blog post about the sweater, I’ve answered a few questions.

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Anyway, here is my current knitting project, another sweater, which I anticipate having done in about a week.

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As for sewing, I’ve made good progress on my winter coat and am hoping to have it finished it time for the cold.  There is still quite a bit to do – – the collar, facings, lining, and lots of finishing.  But, so far so good.

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I’ve got the main shell constructed as well as the fleece underlining.  The outer fabric is a nice boiled wool and combined with the fleece should make a very warm coat.  I will be adding a green taffeta lining, which I’m excited about.  At this point, I can tell that this coat is going to fit me exactly the way I want.  Because I tend to be very sensitive to the cold, being able to combine many layers is important to me.  In these photos, I am wearing two sweaters underneath the coat and it fits nicely.

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Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on, slowly but surely.

Sep 052014
 

Waking up to chilly 42F temperatures this morning, I had to remind myself that it is still, technically, summer.  A few more weeks until the official start of autumn, my favorite season.  My garden continues to produce in abundance though I probably should start covering my tomatoes at night.  Soon, my daily haul of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes will be replaced by winter squash and leeks.  Yum!  Of course, a major lifestyle transition that happens to me is spending less time toiling in the garden and more time with my sewing machine and knitting needles, as the cooler weather approaches.

This past weekend, I started working on a cozy winter coat.  The pattern is Simplicity 5930, a vintage pattern.  I’m making the version pictured in green – – knee length with deep patch pockets, a shawl collar, and a belt tie.

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I’m feeling rather proud of myself, as I’m using fabrics that I already had in my stash!  The main fabric is a nice purple boiled wool and I’m adding a fleece underlining (blue chevrons – – that won’t be visible) for additional warmth, with a green taffeta lining.  With all those layers, it took about 4 hours to cut out the fabric pieces.  Then I was able to sew the underlining to the main fabric and have started work on the pockets.  I improvised some topstitching that I thought would look nifty.

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In the way of knitting, my needles are clicking away on a cozy wool sweater, similar but different to one I finished last month.

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I’m hoping to finish this sweater over the weekend.  I’m working on the edging right now and then will have about a million ends to weave in, before adding the buttons and blocking.

Once I finish each of these projects, I’m excited to work on more projects.

Despite, my intent to sew from my stash, I did recently buy some fabrics from Mood  to sew some blouses and shirts.   Below is my haul along with my ideas for pattern pairings.

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For upcoming knitting projects, I’m obsessed with legwarmers right now.  I love the chunky textured ones as well as those  stranded with bold colors.  Definitely with boots.

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Is anyone else excited for the cooler weather to arrive?  Summer always feels so uninspiring, style-wise, for me because I just end up wearing jeans and a tshirt everyday.  Fall and winter are when stylish sweaters, coats, scarves, and boots shine.

 

Aug 262014
 

Greetings Readers, long time no blog!  I have been SO BUSY for several months and sewing has really taken a backseat on the priorities.  The garden is going bananas (see here), the Day Job is bananas (I’m transitioning to a new role and that makes it extra bananas), my knitting has been bananas, and then I also try to ride my bike and do yoga everyday, so there is just no time for sewing.  I’m hoping that once the weather stops being nice, I won’t feel as inclined to putter in the garden or ride my bike as much, so maybe I’ll hunker over the sewing machine more regularly.

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These two projects took me about a month to complete, even though the total time I spent working on them was maybe 3 hours.  This is a Renfrew tee that I made with some fabric in my stash, modified with a peplum that I drafted based on a skirt pattern.  I used the rounded neck version of the Renfrew and cut a few sizes larger to give it some extra ease and I think it turned out very nice.

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Using the gray knit fabric, I also drafted a maxi skirt.  It’s really nothing fancy. I measured the width of my hips and basically cut two rectangles half that width with a bit of flair towards the bottom.  The waistband is 2″ less wide than the total width of my hips, eased into the waist of the skirt.

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Really, so simple.  But I love the result!

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And I love my top!  I know that I’m pretty late to the party on both the peplum top and the maxi skirt, but I’m so pleased with both of them.

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The top just feels so effortlessly flattering.  I actually really like having several inches of positive ease on this – – it’s so comfortable but still has a nice shape.  Obviously, I used contrasting fabric for the peplum and bands for the sleeves and neckband, which I think adds some interest.

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Despite having no time, I have felt very inspired to sew lately.  There are some new Vogue patterns in the latest fall collection that excite me and I’ve identified several pieces that could really enhance my fall wardrobe options.  Coming up is a four day weekend away from the Day Job and I’m hoping to spend some time with my trusty Singer.

What about you, Readers?  Any excitement for fall sewing???

 

Mar 052014
 

I’ve always understood that, in order for my crafting to be successful (and for me to actually finish projects), the process needs to be enjoyable and satisfying.  This is not to say that every single moment of the process needs to be filled with delight and joy, but that most of the moments need to be so.  This project is a good reminder of that.  For the entire month of February, I was working on a sewing project (for my quilt curtains) that I did not enjoy at all – – actually, I worked on the project hardly at all because I did not have a desire to spend time with it, but the project remained in progress for the whole month.  Over the weekend, I forced myself to finish that project, and I hated every moment of its finishing, but my motivation was to begin work on a project that I was certain would be enjoyable and satisfying to work on.

I began work on this dress Sunday evening, cutting out all of the pieces.  I took Monday off from work and spent the day sewing, mostly filled with joy, and finished this project less than 24 hours after I started it.

This is Simplicity 1882, which I’ve made before.  I am so delighted with how well it turned out.  As a recap, I used the smallest bust cup size with the “curvy” skirt pieces, it fits perfectly

This project was a 100% stash busting project!  The main fabric is an Amy Butler cotton print, the yellow is some linen, and the lining fabric is a generic poly lining (for the skirt – – not shown), and they have all been in my stash for years.  I’m participating in a stashbusting sewalong, and I’m finding it motivating to get my stash down to reasonable quantities.

This dress has some really nice pockets.  On the last version, I added the pocket flaps (and love them) but when I was working on this version, I forgot that the pattern instructions for the pocket flaps don’t make any sense to me and I became so frustrated trying to install them that I threw the flaps away in frustration (this was the moment while making this dress that I was not filled with joy).  Considering that I made the other version of this dress in January, one might think that I would have remembered this frustrating pocket flap business, but no, my memory is apparently very short.

Except for that pocket flap business, this dress came together so easily.  I’m thinking that I should write down some sort of sewing mantra about only working on projects that I enjoy the making of, because otherwise they will sit on my sewing table, in progress, until I force myself, literally kicking and screaming, to finish them.  Incidentally, I will not be blogging about my stupid quilted curtains because, even though they “technically” turned out okay, I really just hate them because they remind me of frustrating times.  In fact, I want to throw them away and just buy curtains from the store… they have such bad memories for me.

What about you, Readers… are you able to motivate yourselves to finish a project even if you dislike working on it?  Do you have any crafting mantras or ways to stay motivated to work on projects that are not fun?

Jan 212014
 

Here we are, still in January, and I have my second sewing FO finished, thereby satisfying my goal for January of sewing at least two pieces this month.  I know that I wrote in my previous post about how I was excited to make a button up shirt, but then I found myself making this dress instead.  I have no explanation other than I fell under the spell of a whim.

So this dress is a Cyntha Rowley design and it was against all my better judgment that I made this, considering my novice sewing skills and the pattern’s apparent advanced difficulty level (as many have stated over on Pattern Review). Of course, those who found it difficult made View A, which has some interesting straps across the front.  I actually made View B, which has a nice rounded neckline in the front (so much easier to sew and, honestly, I dislike those straps on the front anyway). Both Views also feature a deep yoke below the fitted bodice and a full skirt with gathers at the yoke.

View B does have a version of the straps in the back.  However, I did not find them particularly difficult to install.    This does not mean that I installed them well, but I did install them in the manner pictured below without having to pick out stitches or resew anything.  In all honesty, except for being unsure that I was installing them correctly, I found their installation to be surprisingly simple.

The rest of the dress also came together surprisingly easy.  I’m someone who generally has to unpick her stitches eleventy-billion times before it comes out sort of okay, but each seam of this dress went together easily and satisfactorily on the first try.  Perhaps I’m getting better at this sewing business or perhaps this was just a well-drafted pattern, either way, it was wonderful how easy this pattern came together for me!

Actually, that’s not quite true… I did have to make a few adjustments to the fit.  Despite conducting a careful analysis of the finished measurements and sizing recommendations, the bodice initially came out way way way too small.  The armholes were also WAY WAY WAY too small.  So I did have to fix those two things (which were very simple fixes, actually).

The fabric is a cotton broadcloth that I’ve had in my stash for about three years and I’m very happy that I was able to use every last bit on this dress.  A perfect stashbust!

Finally, regarding the fit, flatter, and style of this dress, I am on the fence.  The bodice is very shaped and fitted but then the skirt is just this big floopy droop with no shaping. I did cut a larger size for the skirt than the bodice, but I feel that all of the gathers of the skirt to be rather frumpy.  I hypothesize that my cotton broadcloth doesn’t have enough drape to make this skirt hang very flatteringly and that a different fabric might work a lot better.  Oh well, win some, not-win some.

I’m not sure what my next sewing project will be.  I’ve been thinking about sticking to more Tried and True (TNT) patterns lately and focusing on busting my stash, but I’m also very excited to keep trying new patterns.  I also have some knitting stuff to tell you about, if I can find the time to get some photos.  This is a particularly busy week for me AND we’re having a very gray inversion in the valley, so it’s pretty bad for taking nice photos of my makes.  In fact, for all of these photos, I was standing in front of our ginormous south-facing window to harness as much natural light as possible, and it’s still very gloomy.

Jan 112014
 

Barely into the second week of January, I have my first finished project of the year, though I suppose this is cheating on my goal of finishing two sewing projects a month in 2014, as I began work on this project in November of 2013.  If you recall, I had done up a muslin for S1882 and was critical of my handiwork (though, you all had nice responses; thank you for the encouragement!).  Based on my learnings from that version, I crafted this dress.  I would have finished it months ago, but I had some extreme serger frustration that compelled me to take an extended break (if memory serves, I was also extremely stressed out at the day job (lots of presentations and other anxiety-making things) and I couldn’t handle the idea of possibly adding to my stress.  Upon returning from my vacation, I couldn’t really remember what I had done to make this dress or what had been stressing me out about it, but I was able to finish piecing it together in no time.

All in all, I am very happy with how this dress turned out.  I ended up hemming it shorter than I had intended to, but it’s fine (particularly with some tights).  I don’t believe I had to make any alterations to the pattern – this was some sort of magical pattern that fit me right out of the envelope. These Amazing Fit patterns have individual pieces for each bust cup size and then skirt variations for average, slim, and curvy fit. I used the smallest bust cup size with it’s curvy fit skirt.  I also cut a larger size sleeve because I always tend to require some extra room there.

Here are my fabrics. They are both linens that had been in my stash for several years.

I tried matching the plaid along the seams but missed.  I had to cut the sleeves along the bias because I didn’t quite have enough fabric for the dress otherwise.  I also had to cut the yoke in the contrasting fabric because I didn’t have enough plaid.

The pockets are amazing, placed at the perfect height and are a really nice depth.

The bodice has princess seams that fit me really well and I think the shape of this dress is very flattering to my figure.

Here is a view of the inside of the dress.  I ended up lining the entire dress, which was a challenge for me because I’ve only lined one or two dresses in my life.  The lining was also a stashbusting experience for me as I was able to use up all of this dotted lining fabric that I’ve had for years, but didn’t have enough so I randomly used another lining fabric for part of it. I was able to line the bodice in the navy linen contrast fabric.

Here’s a close up of the neckline, princess seam, and sleeve. You can see how I totally failed to match my plaid but I do like my nice clean neckline.

As for my next sewing project, my Saturday is young and there is still a lot of time for me to do more sewing. I’m excited to work on a simple button up shirt.