Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Upcoming projects: My winter coat

I am going to hold myself to planning out my seasonal sewing by quarter this year (see my Thinking ahead post from November).

Right now, I'm finishing up a set of pajamas for my daughter that I hope/expect to be able to give her for Christmas. I've had the fabric for a few months--it's a Yo Gabba Gabba flannel, and she gets excited every time that she's in the sewing room and sees it. She starts pointing to the characters and calling them out. "Muno!" "Toodie!". It's adorable. I am really looking forward to having her unwrap the pajamas and seeing her Gabba fabric in pajama form, which she can wear. We'll be spending the holidays at my parents' house in San Diego, so these pajamas will be my final completed project for 2013. Once we return to Seattle, my sewing calendar will be wide open.

I need a coat. In San Diego, I rarely wore anything warmer than an unlined jacket. I do own a coat--one that I bought on clearance at Old Navy 6 or 6 years ago, and it's pretty warm and flattering, but the style is very dated now. I am going to sew a coat (a phrase that one year ago, I'd never thought I'd type).

My pick for a coat pattern: HotPatterns Deco-Vibe Retro-Fabulous coat

When this pattern was released a year or so ago, I thought that it was a really cool looking coat, but I didn't purchase it, given that I didn't think it would get much wear in San Diego. However, when we moved to Seattle, I think it was one of the first patterns that I bought.

I already have purchased fabric for the coat: red wool for the shell, and a printed charmeuse for the lining. I will be interlining it, too--my first time interlining anything. I am simultaneously really excited about  and feeling nervous about this project.

I haven't seen this coat blogged or reviewed yet, so I will be a bit of a guinea pig in that department. Luckily, the pattern appears to be easy fitting, which is what I want so that I can wear it over a sweater or multiple layers. I'd much rather spend my time on the detail work of the coat than haggling with fit issues.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Finished projects: Red Velvet dress by Cake Patterns

I finished not one, but two, Red Velvet dresses a few weeks ago, but we only got around to photographing the second one this past Sunday. (As I mentioned in several earlier posts, I took part in the Red Velvet 30-minutes-a-day sewalong.) I could have blogged these separately, but since I chose to try each of the two pleating methods, I wanted to show them side-by-side for the sake of comparison.

Note that I made the following pattern alterations to both versions of this dress:
  • 3" Deep Bust Adjustment (DBA) to add length only over the bust
  • Lengthened sleeves to 3/4 length for the sake of practicality
  • Shortened midriff band by 1.5" (I felt that the midriff band on my Tiramisu dress was too tall; the Red Velvet midriff is a similar height.)
  • Shortened skirt by 2"
  • Trimmed neckline by 1/2" depth to create a more open neckline
  • Opted to self-fabric bind the neckline rather than to use the included facing
  • Converted bust release pleats to darts (I didn't care for the look of the release pleats on some of the larger busted sewists who made the dress before me. Those who used darts had less of a "Look at my nipples!" effect.)
  • Added the side seam pockets from my Tiramisu dress
  • Opted not to use the hidden "invisible zipper" pocket
First up is the first version that I sewed, using a black-and-white ITY jersey that I purchased a while back from Fashionista Fabrics:

For this version, I used the scissor pleat option on the skirt, in both the front and back view. I remember when this pattern came out, I saw a lot of discussion online debating the wisdom of placing a giant pleat over our butts, given that most of us want to minimize bulk there. I proceeded with cautious optimism in this area, after having seen a few other women sew up the Red Velvet dress before I sewed mine up. My observation was that the pleat seemed to work okay if you used a light enough weight fabric. Dresses made up in, say, an ITY knit looked okay; dresses made up in a doubleknit generally probably would have looked better without the pleat/bulk.

Here's the pleat in the back. I don't think it's particularly noticeable, given the print of my fabric:

With my alterations, I was very happy with how my dress turned out. I can wear it to work without feeling like I need to wear a jacket or sweater over it or wearing a cami under it. Note: I feel that ITY knit is the perfect fabric for this dress. It has the perfect amount of body, stability, and drapiness without being too bulky.

For my second version, I used what was also labeled an ITY knit on the bolt. I bought this striped fabric at the Mill End Store on our trip to Portland, OR in October. Note that this fabric was a little bit thinner, WAY more slippery, and WAY more drapey than any other ITY knit that I've worked with. To be honest, it was a pain to work with. The midriff band is a black ITY jersey that I've had in my stash.

With this version, I thought that the "boxy pleat" option on the skirt might be fun with the stripes. here's the front of the dress:

Here's the back of the dress. I do think that the scissor pleat is more flattering on larger backsides like mine--it's more subtle:

 Overall, I'm happy with my dresses. I feel like I got two very wearable dresses out of the sewalong/project. I like the black and white one a little more, but the striped one is still cute and fun and has a totally different vibe. I could see myself make a third version of this dress if I am struck with fabric inspiration.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Yea or Nay: Inifinity scarves for the short, large-busted woman?

I never had to wear scarves when I lived in San Diego, but here in Seattle, they've pretty much been a necessity for being comfortable outside when the temperature drops below 45 degrees.

I know that the current fashion is to wear infinity scarves, which are a loop of fabric that you drape around your neck 2 or 3 times. I sewed one of these a few years ago, but never ended up wearing it much. I felt like I had a pool of fabric sitting on my Very Large Bust. Having a short neck didn't help things.

Infinity scarf (Nordstrom's)

Since moving, I've been sticking with a traditional scarf, looped once around my neck and letting the ends hang down. I might be deluding myself, but I like to think that the ends hanging down helps create vertical lines down the front of my body. In theory, this should have a lengthening effect on 5'2" me.

"Traditional" scarf (Nordstrom's)

What's your take? I'm thinking that the infinity scarf is a trend that I should just sit out, but maybe you're a full-busted woman yourself and you've found a way to style these where you don't feel like you're adding unnecessary bulk to your chest. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter is here

Because "winter is here" is so much more original than "winter is coming" at this point, right?

Self-directed snark aside, I am experiencing my first "real" winter here in Seattle. I was actually born in Chicago, but we moved to San Diego when I was four years old. Since then, I've lived my entire life in the state of California (bouncing a couple of times between San Diego and the Bay Area). You just flat-out don't see temperatures of "27" in most parts of San Diego, let alone have days with high temperatures of 36. I see an upcoming low temp of "19" degrees Fahrenheit. I don't think I've ever actually been outside in 19 degree weather. I have no idea what that feels like.

When we told people that we were going to be moving to Seattle, the general consensus was "It's so rainy up there!" said to us with a tone indicating that we might melt from a little moisture. The rain really hasn't been a big deal; when it rains, it's usually overnight or in the early morning. We do have a fair number of overcast days up here. I've been told that we're having a dry fall, so maybe I haven't experienced the "real" rain yet.

The cold, on the other hand, is much greater than I expected. I'm not complaining about it--it's like a novelty to us so far. "OMG! So this is what 27 degrees feels like!" We haven't had any snow yet, but I've been told that the community that we live in does typically get a few inches of snow per year. Up here, people aren't used to snow and apparently, all hell breaks loose when it does snow.

Things that I've learned about cold weather in the past few weeks:
  • Scarves: They're not just fashion accessories!
  • An unlined/denim jacket does not cut it for warmth below 45 degrees.
  • I never thought I'd write this, but I really want to make a coat. A lined and interlined coat. (Yes, I have a pattern, fabric, etc.)
  • If you leave your car sitting outside at a Park and Ride all day in 30-something degree weather, you'll need to sit in your car with the engine running for 10 minutes while your defroster de-ices your windows enough to actually drive home.
Also, water freezes when it's this cold! Really, like puddles and stuff. Check out this "puddle" in a parking lot that I walk through to get to my office in the mornings:

That's ice! A squirrel could ice skate on that puddle! Can you tell that this is all still hugely entertaining to us? I'm probably going to explode with excitement the first time that I see snowflakes.

Oh, to be in your late 30's and experience winter weather for the first time...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finished Project: Simplicity 1505 Big and Tall Men & Husky Boys' Pajamas

Given the lack of men's patterns in general, and the nearly complete absence of any patterns for a man who wears larger than a 2X, I was really excited to see Simplicity come out with a new Big and Tall men's pajama pattern in their most recent collection (October 2013).

Not only do the men's sizes run from 1XL-5XL, the pattern actually uses the pieced/colorblock trend that we've been seeing for the past few years. And a v-neck! Imagine that, a Big and Tall pattern that's reasonably fashionable!

The pattern includes both the men's and boys' pattern pieces with views for pants or shorts. You can't really see it in the line drawing, but the pants/shorts have inseam pockets--a bonus when your husband never wants to be too far away from his phone.

My husband desperately needed new pajamas, since he'd pretty much destroyed the set that I made him last year (he's rough on clothes). For the pants, I used cotton flannel that I'd purchased from Fabric Mart's $3/yard sale last winter. For the shirt, I used coordinating cotton interlock that I'd had in my stash for years that I'd bought at (The interlock was purchased before I'd figured out how important lycra/recovery is in knit tops...but for a set of pajamas, I figured it really didn't matter.)

I actually finished these a couple of weeks ago (grabbing a few minutes here and there while working on my Red Velvet dresses). Here are the finished pajamas:

Sizing-wise, the sizes seem to run very true to RTW. I chose my husband's RTW sizes for both the pants and shirt, and they both have the roomy (but not huge) fit that most of us like to have in our pajamas. The pattern went together well, and other than a few quibbles that I had with the order of construction (repeat after me: It's easier to sew in-the-flat than in-the-round for many things...), the instructions were fine. Note: My husband is 6'2" (he has a VERY long torso), and I did not need to add any length to the shirt. The only other time that I haven't had to add length to a shirt of his was when I made up the now-out-of-print Simplicity 4957: Big and Tall Men's shirt for him.

I'm really happy that Simplicity included this pattern in their last release. Since they sunsetted the old 4975 shirt pattern, I've been hoping that they'd come out with an updated men's shirt. These pajamas might not be that shirt, but they are a nice option if you are a Big and Tall man or have a larger man in your life. It's really nice to be able to sew something right out of the envelope for my husband without having to grade up multiple sizes. Outside of the Islander patterns and the occasional McCall's that run up to an XXXL, I'm not aware of any other sewing patterns for men that go past an XXL. I read a lot of valid complaints from plus sized women about the lack of sewing pattern options out there, but larger guys have it even worse in that department.