Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seattle musings: The 12th man

I am 39 years old, and I have never lived in a city where one of the home sports teams has won a national championship. In addition to experiencing snow that I didn't purposely drive to for the first time, our Seattle move has also given me the chance of experiencing actually living in the same city as the Super Bowl-bound team that I'll be cheering for. Yes, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Seattle Seahawks will be playing in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos this Sunday.

Let me give you a brief history of my sports fandom. I've lived most of my life in San Diego. San Diego has two major sports teams: the Padres (baseball) and Chargers (football).

The Padres have historically been anywhere from terrible to mediocre, having had various horrible owners for most of their existence (I'm looking at you, Tom Werner, John Moores, Jeff Moorad's layaway ownership, etc.). Every so often, the Padres will cobble together a half-decent team, make the playoffs, and unceremoniously get bounced in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

In their 45 years of history as an MLB team, the Padres have made it to the World Series exactly twice. The first time was when I was 10 years old, and the Padres beat out another "long suffering" team in the NLCS--the Chicago Cubs--to move on to the World Series. They were up against one of the better teams in baseball history--the 1984 Detroit Tigers--and only managed to win one game. As a 10-year-old living in San Diego, this was the absolutely most amazing thing to experience and cemented my fanship for many, many years.

The second time that the Padres made it to the World Series was in 1998. I had just moved from San Diego to the Bay Area for a new job, and so I wasn't actually living in town when my team was kicking ass all over the National League. I missed the debut of "Trevor Time" (Trevor Hoffman entering the field from the bullpen to AC/DC's "Hells Bells") and an awful lot of fun. My dad managed to score tickets to game 4 of the World Series, so I flew down to attend that game with him. Even though we lost that game, sealing our sweep by the Yankees (unfortunately, another historically great team that we had to face for the WS), it was still an amazing experience for me. I cried when the game was over, not just because we lost, but because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.

That's it for Padres World Series appearances. Historically, the Chargers have done much better in the standings than the Padres, but the Chargers have only made it to the Super Bowl once in their entire history. That Super Bowl appearance came after the 1994 season, when I was living in Santa Cruz to attend school at UC Santa Cruz. The Chargers faced the San Francisco 49'ers, after (you guessed it) the 49'ers had a historically great season. Santa Cruz is geographically close to San Francisco (about a two-hour drive away when the freeways aren't crippled by traffic), so I was not only not in San Diego to experience this, I was surrounded by "the enemy", since many of my fellow students were 49'er fans.

Living in Seattle while the Seahawks have gone on their Super Bowl run has been a little bit of a bittersweet experience. They are a FUN team to watch, and my husband and I have been cautiously adopting them as our "second team". The superstitious sports fan in me (made that way from years of being a San Diego sports fan) has been waiting for the other shoe to drop--I keep expecting the bottom to fall out in some way. The extremely passionate Seahawks fan base, otherwise known as the "12th man" has been relishing this experience. In fact, a 12th man flag has even been flying on top of the Space Needle for the past few weeks:

I've had a chance to observe the following around town these past few weeks:
  • 12th man flags flying everywhere, including from the windows of all of the Amazon buildings
  • Out-of-service city buses currently say "Go Hawks!" instead of the usual "Not in Service"
  • Strangers ending conversations of small talk with a "Go Hawks!"
  • Everyone everywhere wearing Seahawks and/or 12th man gear
  • A panhandler with a "Go Hawks!" on his cardboard sign (after the line about being a homeless vet needing help)
Also, my husband just alerted me to the fact that this is going on right now:

I can't say that I'm not a little jealous, although that's partially because I haven't lived here long enough to really get attached to the local team. Seattle sports, like San Diego sports, have had a long history of suckitude. The Mariners have never even made it to the World Series, even despite having won 116 regular season games in 2001. The Seahawks have only made it to the Super Bowl once, in 2006, and lost. Seattle fans absolutely deserve what they're currently experiencing now, and I will be rooting hard for the Seahawks to win it all in New York in a few days. I try not to be a pessimist, but I wonder if I'll ever be able to experience the same feeling for one of my teams in my lifetime, and I seriously doubt it. I truly think that my best hope to experience this type of emotion for myself is for the Seahawks to continue to kick ass (and with great young players, they should be able to) and wait for my loyalty to my adopted city to catch up.

This has been a long and rambling post, but I've wanted to document my feelings around what I'm seeing/experiencing here somewhere.

And Go Hawks!

Monday, January 27, 2014

HP Kimono Jacket progress and a fabric haul

I do more than just ogle patterns on the internet! Sometimes I actually sew!

Cardigan/Jacket progress

I did manage to grab some time to sew over the weekend and made quite a bit of progress on the HotPatterns Fast & Fabulous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket that I've been working on.

I am working on this jacket (really a cardigan, in my case) to tick the box on the "gray belted cardigan" from the Capsule Wardrobe that I am working on. For my version, I am using a heathered charcoal sweater knit that had been labeled as a "wool jersey" that's been sitting in my stash for several years. This fabric doesn't have the drape that I'd associate with wool jersey and is fairly stable, so I thought that it would make a reasonable choice for this pattern. 

I was able to complete a fair amount of the construction over the past few days:
  • Sewed the darts
  • Constructed/applied the pockets
  • Stitched the facing pieces together
  • Constructed the belt
  • Sewed the shoulder seams
You can see the progress on my not-padded-for-my-measurements dress form:

HP Kimono Jacket in-progress
Excuse the state of my sewing room. I still haven't gotten around to completely unpacking everything and putting it in its place since our move six months ago. I have managed to unpack everything that I might need to reasonably get to in the near future, but as you can see, I still have boxes stacked on top of each other, plastic tubs in the middle of the room, etc. 

See that blue metallic linen on the floor? That's there because my toddler daughter is OBSESSED with it. No matter where I fold it up and put it away, if it's visible and in reachable distance to her, she pulls it out and drapes herself in it and walks around the house in it. At this point, I'm just letting her play with it because it seems to make her happy. And isn't that the point of fabric--to make us happy?

A few thoughts on my cardigan/jacket so far:
  • The finished jacket won't be so shapeless; the darts do add nice shaping, even if you can't tell on my smaller-than-me dressform. 
  • The pocket gape is entirely my fault for not stabilizing them. The instructions do call for interfacing, but I omitted it because I wanted a slouchier look for my cardigan. In hindsight, I should have used twill tape or something else because the pockets did stretch out. I'm not going to beat myself up over it, though--I won't be the first person walking around in a cardigan with pocket gape.
  • I've seen various complaints online over the years over HotPatterns not including enough notches and the size lines being difficult to distinguish (they include sizes 6-26 in every pattern). I am guessing to address these complaints, they've made the size lines MUCH easier to distinguish on this pattern--labeling them every few inches or so. There's more notches/markings, too. 
  • I draped the non-side-seam-sewn cardigan over my shoulders, and I think I'm going to be pretty happy with the final cardigan, barring any late screw-ups by myself. It's going to be a true four season wardrobe workhorse. The elbow-length sleeves and wrap style will make it nice for layering over a number of pieces. I am looking forward to having this project complete so that I can wear it.

Merino wool knits from FabricMart

My first (and only) major instance of falling of the fabric purchasing wagon this year happened when FabricMart had their big sale on wool knits a few weeks ago. My wools (all merinos of various knits) arrived a few days ago:

Merino wool knits - FabricMart

My haul, starting at the upper-left corner, going clockwise:
  • Merino wool knit jersey in dusty teal
  • Merino wool knit jersey in "royal"
  • Merino wool knit jersey in plum
  • Merino ponte knit jersey in (something I can't remember) olive
  • Merino ribbed jersey in heathered gray
  • Merino ponte in cayenne
  • Merino ponte in off-white
The olive and heathered gray jerseys are slated to be long-sleeved t-shirts (probably for layering) for my husband, so this isn't all for me. As you can probably deduce, I spent way too much money on this haul and will be refraining from unplanned fabric purchases for the forseeable future. The good news is that these are all solid basics and are likely to be sewn in a reasonable timeframe.

This box put me at 24 yards purchased for the year. Counting the in-process cardigan/jacket, I'm at 6 yards sewn so far for the year.  I have a bit of catching up to do.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Variations on a theme: Basic t-shirt with a flare

I'm planning to do a series of posts where I do a roundup of patterns that have caught my eye for a particular garment type. Currently, there is a message board thread running over on Pattern Review debating the pros and cons of developing a Tried-aNd-True (TNT) pattern. To me, one of the undeniable pros of a TNT is to be able to quickly fit a new pattern of the same garment type.

Since I feel like I've recently established a TNT pattern for a basic t-shirt (the SBCC Tonic t-shirt), I'm going to kick off the series with a look at a few patterns that offer a slight twist on the basic t-shirt. These are patterns that would lend themselves to a quick fit when using a TNT tee as a sloper for the pattern. I haven't yet made up any of these patterns, but these are the ones that I have pinned and keep going back to look at and will likely pull the trigger on at some point.


Ruched raglan sleeve tee from BurdaStyle

To kick things off, I've been eyeing this BurdaStyle tee with ruched raglan sleeves ever since I saw the line drawing, like, a year ago.

A ton of people have made this top on PatternReview from a ton of different knit fabrics, and it's universally turned out cute. The only reason why I haven't made it yet is because its largest size is a Burda 42, which will require me to grade up a few sizes. HOWEVER, now that I have my TNT tee and a Jalie raglan-sleeve tee that fit reasonably well, I'm less concerned about having to grade up the pattern.

For such a great basic, I'm surprised that the sizing tops out at 42 (38" bust) on this one. Usually, the smaller size range is a clue that a style might not be flattering on larger figures, but I can't see what the issue would be with this top.


Plantain t-shirt from Deer & Doe

Deer & Doe is a French indie pattern company that's been around for a little over a year. Within the past few months, they've localized their web site and made their pattern instructions available in English. I find their styles are a bit Colette-ish, but without as literal of a vintage vibe.

I haven't tried any of their patterns yet, but they recently posted a free PDF download pattern that's been getting a bit of buzz: The Plantain t-shirt. The Plantain is available in Euro sizes 34-46 (so no massive grading for me--probably just an FBA and a bit at the side seams).

I like the shape of this top--on the women who have made it up, it's fitted through the bust and then has an easy fit on down. I think it will work well on those of us with post-baby bellies. The elbow patches are a cute detail as well.


Rose t-shirt from Blank Slate patterns

Most of Blank Slate's patterns are for the kids. The garments are very wearable, sometimes unisex, and always modern. The Rose t-shirt is their one garment pattern offering for adult women.

The Rose t-shirt is offered in sizes XS-XL (33"-44" bust), so there's a pretty generous size range available. Here's where the TNT would come in handy for me--my full bust is slightly larger than the XL, but given the ruching/draping of the top, I might be able to get away with skipping the FBA if there's enough ease.

I like the mixture of knits and the woven contrast neckband section with this design, and I think that this shape (open neckline, ruching) will likely flatter most figure types. As an added plus, there's also a little girls' dress version available, if you're one of those annoying moms like me who sometimes takes the "mini-me" thing a little too literally.


Tootsie Top from StyleArc

StyleArc followers know that the pattern company gives away a free pattern with purchase every month.  A few months ago, the freebie pattern was the Tootsie knit top:

I love playing with stripes in my garments, so seeing the striped option for this pattern made it easy for me to make the decision to place the order for this top. This one is available in StyleArc (Au) sizes 4-30, which should cover most women. This one comes with short and long-sleeved options (no re-drafting there) and hits at a nice hip length. I've seen a few of these made up online, and it's a cute and flattering top for all body types.


Lekala 4319 draped tunic

I guess that this one is a little bit of a stretch (no pun intended) for this post because it's technically a tunic, but I've been coveting Lekala 4319 since it appeared on the Russian version of the Lekala web site.

For those unfamiliar with Lekala, their web site allows you to enter a set of your own body measurements and then emails you a PDF pattern that has been customized to your measurements. I haven't tried one yet, but they generally get rave reviews for fit, AND they're quite inexpensive at ~$2.50/pattern. Their instructions, however, do not get rave reviews, so you're probably best off sticking with garment types where you won't need them.

I love this top for it's interesting draping and neckline. According to the drawing on the model, this top/tunic hits at about crotch length, so it's not a super long tunic--maybe more of a long top. I like long tops. This pattern is a candidate for one of the, um, about half dozen lengths of merino wool that I bought at recent FabricMart sales.

I tried to stick with relatively recently released patterns. Are there any new-ish knit top/t-shirt patterns that have grabbed your eye lately?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sewing Goals 2104: 12-piece capsule wardrobe

I'm writing this post to expand on the capsule wardrobe goal that I original mentioned in my Sewing Goals 2014: Non-stash related post. To recap, about a week and a half ago, Trudy from HotPatterns sent out a promo email advertising 12 patterns that would temporarily be 20% off and could be used to build a capsule wardrobe for spring. She included example photos of the garments plus suggested patterns that could be used for each garment.

HotPatterns Spring 2014 capsule wardrobe

Usually, I like the idea of capsule or "mini" wardrobes far more than I think that said wardrobe would actually work with my lifestyle (casual office/mom-on-the-go), but this one differs to me for several reasons:
  • This capsule pretty much nails how I typically dress and would include a number of garments to address holes in my current wardrobe.
  • Many of the pieces are neutral, so I can start wearing them as soon as I sew them without having to wait to sew up a companion/coordinating piece.
  • I already own all of the patterns on this list or have a reasonable substitute in my stash.
  • I already own fabric in my stash that can be used to make every garment on this list.
  • Of the 12 patterns (or my substitutes), 9 come from my Stash Candidates List.
I don't plan to sew exclusively for this capsule wardrobe until I'm finished; I'd burn out pretty quickly that way. Instead, I plan to use this list as a checklist. My goal is to get through this list of 12 garments by the end of 2014. Additionally, in some case I will be substituting a garment that is similar "in spirit" to the suggested garment out of my own personal preference.

Shall we take a closer look at the 12 garments in the capsule wardrobe list?

# Garment Suggested pattern My interpretation
1 Shapely denim shirt HP P&S Princess-seamed shirt I'm not a fan of denim shirts--too many memories of friends working at Blockbuster in the 90's. I will substitute another neutral woven blouse for this, using either the P&S Superfantastic shirt or the Riviera Montserrat blouse, probably in white cotton shirting.
2 Slouchy striped t-shirt HP Weekender Breton T I just completed a semi-fitted striped t-shirt using the SBCC Tonic t-shirt pattern. I think this top nicely captures the spirit of the HP suggestion.
3 Fitted white t-shirt HP P&S Fitted t-shirt redux I'll either give the suggested pattern a try or will make the SBCC Tonic t-shirt pattern again using a white rayon t-shirt jersey.
4 Relaxed gray t-shirt HP P&S Relaxed t-shirts Most of my gray t-shirt fabric in my stash is already slated to become t-shirts for my husband. I may choose another color for this one. For the pattern, I'll either give the suggested pattern a try, or will go ahead and use the SBCC Tonic t-shirt pattern again.
5 White jeans HP Classix Nouveau Dressy Jean I won't do white jeans. They still scream 80's to me, and I'm not slim or young enough to wear them. For this item, I'm leaning towards swapping in a pair of HP Classix Nouveau Dolce Vita slim cut pants in a stone color or maybe black.
6 Fun color jeans or pants Classix Nouveau Dolce Vita slim cut pants I have a nice length of brick red stretch denim in my stash. It's still a fun color, but doesn't scream that you have to be under 30 to wear it. I'm thinking of going with either the HP Classix Nouveau Dressy Jean or the HP Weekender Boyfriend Jean for the pattern.
7 Boyfriend jeans HP Weekender Boyfriend Jean I have plenty of denim in my stash in varying blue dyes. I'll choose one of them to go with the suggested HP Weekender Boyfriend Jean pattern.
8 Slim denim skirt HP P&S Slouchy Fly Front Skirt Based on the line drawings, I think that the Cake Hummingbird skirt is probably better suited to my figure. I'll be making that in denim from my stash.
9 Fun print top or blouse HP Classix Nouveau Scarf Shirt I'll be using the suggested HP Classix Nouveau Scarf Shirt pattern for this garment. I haven't decided on which stash fabric to pair with it yet.
10 Solid t-shirt dress HP P&S Relaxed t-shirts I don't see a lengthened relaxed t-shirt being the best choice for my figure, but I get and like the idea of this entry. I think that the HP P&S Essential Shift Dress in a nice ponte knit from my stash will be a suitable replacement.
11 Black crop or moto jacket HP Metropolitan Agostini Moto jacket or HP Riviera Blvd Cardigan Jacket I made a version of the HP Riviera Blvd Cardigan jacket a while back and liked it, but I'm leaning towards the HP Metropolitan Agostini Moto jacket on this one. For either jacket, I'll be using a black ponte knit from my stash (thank you FabricMart). I've been wanting to make a moto jacket for a while, and the Agostini has the added benefit of paneled seams and not being double-breasted.
12 Belted gray cardigan/jacket HP Fast & Fabulous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket I've already started this one. I'm using the suggested HP Fast & Fabulous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket pattern and making it up in a firm wool sweater knit.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Finished Project: SBCC 322 - Tonic t-shirt (version 2)

I loved my first SBCC Tonic t-shirt so much that I jumped right in and made a second one:

Striped Tonic t-shirt
 Remaking a pattern used to be a rarity for me. I'd have the best of intentions, but it used to be that when I was done with a pattern the first time, I was Done with it. That pattern might sit on top of my sewing desk for the next six months with the good intention that I'd make it again, but I rarely did so unless A) it was a quick and painless sew and B) I was in love with the finished garment.  I've gotten a lot better about this over the past year or so, although I'm not sure if it's so much that I've been "better" about it, or if it's been that I've been mainly sewing easy knit tops/dresses since my daughter was born 19 months ago.

I made a few minor adjustments:
  • Raised the neckline at the center front (CF) by 1".
  • Added ~ 3/4" at the side seams at the hip. (Note that my current measurements correspond to a straight 2X across the board on the SBCC size chart, but I needed a little more room than that for my large rear high hip.)
The CF alteration raised the neckline to a level that I'm a bit more comfortable with at work (not that it's bad as drafted).

The addition at the hip helped a little with the pulling at the back, but I think that to get a "perfect fit", I really need a center back (CB) seam back there where I can play with a sway back/large butt alteration. You know how a lot of women's hips are larger after having a baby? My hip measurement is proportionally larger compared to my waist/bust than it used to be, but everything redistributed itself to my butt. You'd never know from looking at me straight on that my hips measure 2.5" larger than my bust, but they do...and that measurement largely comes from junk in the trunk. I don't have a problem with it--it is what it is, but I am now dealing with some fitting issues that I did not have to deal with pre-baby.

Doggy photobomb!

In any case, I'm very happy with version 2, as well. This striped top will become the first piece of the HotPatterns capsule wardrobe that I'm starting. I'm psyched about this--I will be swapping out a few patterns for non-HP patterns, but for both patterns and fabric, I will be able to complete the entire capsule wardrobe from stash.

My next entry in the capsule wardrobe will be the gray, belted cardigan. I am using the suggested pattern of the HP Fast & Fabulous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket. For fabric, I am using a firm, wool sweater knit that's been in my stash for around four years (I think). Remember a few years ago when got in that lot of Vera Wang fabrics in that many of us ordered way too much of? This fabric was one of those fabrics. It was listed as a "wool jersey", but in reality, the hand/weight feel much more like a sweater knit, and it's been sitting in my stash since then. I am hoping that it will be a good choice for this project.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sewing Goals 2014: Non-stash related

While my highest priority goals for 2014 revolve around stash balance and reduction, I have a mish-mash of non-stash related goals of things that I'd like to accomplish in the following year. In no particular order, here are my non-stash goals for the following year:
  • Sew a water-resistant jacket with a hood.

    I made a rain jacket a few years ago (and still wear it), but it really bothers me that it doesn't have a hood and that I still have to use an umbrella when it's raining. I want to rectify that this year, especially since it rains so much more in Seattle than San Diego, and I know that this to-be-sewn jacket will get a ton of wear.
  • Sew a winter coat.

    I don't have one that I like. I need one. We seem to be through the worst of our cold weather here in Seattle, so I will probably take my time with this one and/or punt it to fall sewing. I already have the pattern and fabric bought for the one that I want to make (see my Winter coat post).
  • Sew my daughter's Halloween costume.

    I did this last year. It was fun/rewarding. I want to do it again. She's old enough now that she'll be able to pick out what she wants to be, so that will add a new angle to things. If her current interests hold through to the fall, she'll likely want to be Elmo, Muno (from Yo Gabba Gabba), a duck, or a penguin.
  • Sew a capsule wardrobe.

    I've alluded to having a lot of holes in my wardrobe in previous posts. I am a classic example of a person with a closet full of clothes and "nothing to wear". I have four pairs of Old Navy jeans that actually fit me quite well and a few knit dress/leggings combos that I like/wear, but I am really lacking in tops that both fit and don't feel out of style and jackets/toppers to go with those. My ultimate goal here is to come up with 4-5 outfits that will get me through the work week so that A) I don't always feel like I'm wearing the same things styled the same way again and B) not go through my closet on Fridays really struggling with picking out a top to wear and picking out something that either doesn't fit all that well or isn't that flattering but is clean.

    I had been pondering what pieces should make up a capsule wardrobe like this, but Trudy from HotPatterns sent out her own suggestions for a 12-piece capsule wardrobe this morning:

    HotPatterns 12-piece capsule wardrobe for spring
This is it. THIS is how I dress for work. The only thing on this list that I wouldn't wear would be the white jeans (mental block against the 80's-ness of them and not being a size 4). I'm actually about to finish a striped t-shirt similar to the one pictured here. You might also notice a LOT of overlap between Trudy's suggested patterns for these pieces and the "candidate patterns" from my stash that I mentioned in my Pattern Stash post. The other nice thing is that I can sew this ENTIRE capsule from stash patterns and fabrics (substituting a non-HP pattern here and there).

I'll do a series of more comprehensive posts on my capsule plans as I work them out and execute them.
  • Get over my fear of fly zippers.

    Really. I've been sewing long enough, I've sewn a few decent ones. I don't know why I still tense up at the thought of them.
  • Execute a wearable set of welt pockets.

    I've gotten to the point where I've done test samples that look wearable. Here's another area where I need to get over my fear and actually put them in something that I'd wear.
  • Fabric out for the year should be 50% greater than fabric in.

    I have a spreadsheet where I am tracking this. I've already fallen behind because I got bitten by the merino wool sale at FabricMart, but I know I can recover.
  • Explore the functionality of my Babylock Evolve.

    My one splurge/semi-frivolous purchase that came out of my signing bonus for my new job last year was to upgrade my old Brother 1034D to a new-to-me Babylock Evolve serger/coverstitch combo machine. I've already been using the 3- and 4-thread overlocks and coverstitch quite a bit, but it can do so much more, and I want to learn how to do so many more things on it.
So that's it. I have 8-non stash specific goals for the year. I'll check back against these throughout the year to see how I'm progressing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finished project: SBCC 322 - Tonic t-shirt

I might have just found a new favorite t-shirt pattern!

For my first new project of the year (also a stash project in both the pattern and fabric sense), I finally sewed up the Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick (SBCC) free t-shirt download that's been getting internet raves over the past few months:

Finished garment photo from the SBCC web site
SBCC is a pattern line that was launched a few months ago with a focus on patterns that fit and flatter petite women. The pattern line covers both Misses and Plus size ranges. I love the fact that someone is focusing on this niche; always having to shorten things on the "lengthen/shorten" pattern line (if it exists) and having to guess where the hem of something will hit you can be a pain. It's not as much of a pain as having to do an FBA on everything, but it does add to pattern prep time and take away from actual sewing time.

Note: I know that the pattern company name has sparked some controversy online. I understand not being a fan of the name, but it doesn't bother me. Obviously, I'm aware of the negative connotations of the "b" word, but I guess I've been in enough circles where the word can be used affectionately that I don't really have an issue with it. I hadn't actually given it much thought before I saw the discussion that the name sparked on Pattern Review a little while back.

The pattern is available as a free PDF download (or as a hard copy pattern for $10) from the SBCC web site:

SBCC Tonic t-shirt

As you can see from the line drawing, it's a pretty basic t-shirt with a scoop neckline and some side seam shaping.

SBCC Tonic t-shirt line drawing
I made a few minor changes to my version of the t-shirt:
  • Added 2" to the overall length using the lengthen/shorten line (just above the waistline). I made this change mostly out of personal preference/fear of the back of the shirt riding up when I bent over.
  • Started with a size 1X through the neck/shoulders and morphed to a 2X at the armscye to give myself a bit more room through the bust/waist/hips (aka my "cheater FBA").
  • Used the original sleeve cap as a starting point to draft a 3/4 sleeve. Up here in Seattle, I find that I just don't wear short-sleeved t-shirts much; 3/4 length sleeves are much more practical.
For fabric for this test version, I used a remnant of 11oz rayon jersey from Emma One Sock that was leftover from a previous project.  I had just over 1 yard of this fabric left--not really enough to make anything other than a t-shirt or kids' clothes, and it was the perfect amount for this top.

I'm very happy with the fit and finished t-shirt:

Finished t-shirt - front

And the back:

You can't easily see it because of my black fabric, but the t-shirt is pulling a bit over the high hip fluff of my large rear end. For my next version, I think I'll probably add a little bit to the side seams at the hips, and if that doesn't fix the pulling, I might add a center back (CB) seam or morph this pattern with a t-shirt pattern that does have a CB seam for shaping over my butt.

A few more notes on this project:
  • This t-shirt was the first project where I actually used my Babylock Evolve serger/coverstitch to complete the entire project. Previously, I had played around on test fabrics with the coverstitch, but this was the first time that I felt comfortable switching modes and using it on something that I would actually wear. The neckline, in particular, turned out really nice--none of the wavy wonkiness that I sometimes would get from using a twin needle on my machine for my knit topstitching.
  • After wearing the t-shirt all day, I realized that the neckline is a tad bit low (or a "skosh", as my grandfather used to say). For my next version, I'm raising it about 1".
  • As others have noted, the printing of this PDF runs off the page. To get the correct sizing, tape the pieces with each page edge butted up against it's adjoining page edge. There's no overlap or circles or anything like that on this pattern. 
And yes, there will be a "next version". I've already made my minor tweaks (adding a touch at the hips and neckline), have cut it out, and sewn the shoulder seams. I think that I might actually have a potential TNT t-shirt pattern here for the first time in about five years!

Based on this experience, I would definitely try other SBCC patterns. If I can find a suitable fabric in my stash, I'm considering giving the SBCC knit maxi-skirt a try; I can't think of how wonderful it would be to actually have a maxi-skirt where I didn't have to chop off or otherwise alter inches and inches of length to fit my short legs!

Monday, January 13, 2014

We adopted a dog!

My husband and I have been discussing adopting a dog for a lonnnnnng time. We both grew up with dogs, but our condo in San Diego was only 875 square feet and on the second floor with no yard. Between the lack of space, lack of yard, and already having cats, we knew that we'd need to wait until we were better situated before adopting a dog. In fact, when we were looking at duplexes in San Diego when selling the condo, one of the criteria for buying a new place was "Do we think we could have a dog in this place?"

Our house in Bothell has a fenced in yard, albeit a small one. We have over double the square footage inside the house, as well. Once we returned from our holidays travels in San Diego, we decided that the timing was right for us to start looking at local humane societies, rescue groups, etc. On Saturday, in the pouring rain, we headed to PAWs, an adoption center in Lynnwood and toured the available dogs. Two dogs stood out to us, Mo, who was a friendly cutie but so new that they didn't have any info available on him, and Apoo, a six-month-old shepard/terrier mix who had been rescued from Iran and who was also a friendly cutie. Apoo was on a 24-hour adoption hold when we arrived, but that hold expired about 30 minutes after we arrived, so we were able to have a meet-and-greet session with her.

Apoo and Eva hit it off instantly, which pretty much cemented our decision to adopt her. She had already been spayed and microchipped, so she came home with us that day. Here she is, in her new "forever home":

We are going to rename her "Arya", because "Apoo" is a little to close to the name of a certain famous Quik-E-Mart manager. Plus, Eva can actually say "Arya", and we have a history of naming pets after fan-favorite characters from HBO series.

We weren't aware of this, but Apoo/Arya had been featured on a local news story a few days before we adopted her. It's pretty horrifying to learn/read about what her fate might have been had she not been rescued in Iran:

She is a total sweetheart of a doggy (we're currently working on housebreaking), and we're very happy to have her as part of our family.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Sewing Goals: Pattern Stash

I am going to blatantly rip off an idea from Lynn over at You sew, girl! and write my own post about my goals for pattern stash busting in 2014. She set stashbusting goals for herself by identifying a goal of sewing at least 10 stashed patterns and 30 pieces of stashed fabric in 2014.

I am going to do a similar thing with the following pledge:

"I, Michelle of happilycaffeinated, commit to using at least 15 patterns from the candidate pattern stash and using at least 20 pieces of stash fabric in 2014. Stash includes any fabric or patterns on hand/purchased prior to the date of this pledge, 8 Jan 2013."

If you'll recall, I wrote a post a few months ago where I was debating how best to add some focus and order to my sewing projects for 2014:

Thinking ahead to 2014: Seeking Balance

In particular, I was interested in finding a way to prioritize sewing up some of my stashed patterns that I truly wanted to sew but hadn't done so because I kept getting distracted by other projects. By using Lynn's challenge as an inspiration, I think that I should be able to accomplish my pattern stashbusting goals for the year but not feel like I'm locked into sewing only one company's patterns.

Here's how I'm planning to accomplish these goals:
  • The fabric stash part is easy. I'm planning to try to shop my stash for most of my projects this year unless there's a pattern that I have in mind where I really don't have an appropriate fabric (Believe it or not, I do have a small handful of projects in mind where I don't have the right fabric. Probably not surprisingly, these projects are all either fleece pajamas or outerwear.)
  • For the pattern stash part, I wanted to focus on patterns that have either been in my "to sew" queue for a while or have been and out of my queue several times. These patterns are the ones that I really want to sew but haven't gotten around to for whatever reasons. To create this focus, I created a spreadsheet of "candidate" patterns:

    2014 Pattern Stash candidates
    I won't be restricted to sewing from this list, but I will try to sew 15 of the 39 patterns on here this year. Given my sewing pace under normal circumstances, I think this is a reasonable goal that will leave me with some flexibility for new patterns and new project ideas.

    Also, lest you think that I have some sort of ungodly self control, note that my pattern stash is much, much larger than this list. In my early years of sewing, I hit nearly every cheapo pattern sale at JoAnn's and accumulated hundreds of Big 4 patterns, most of which will probably never be sewn, but that I can't bring myself to part with. (For some reason, I have a much easier time donating "what was I thinking" fabric than patterns.)
  • My weight has fluctuated a lot over the past few years (getting pregnant, having a baby, taking off a chunk of weight, putting a little bit of that weight back on), so I've been really feeling like I need a wardrobe revamp, especially taking into account Seattle's cooler climate. I tried to put together a list of where I see the "holes" being in my current wardrobe and mapped that to the pattern stash candidates:
Stash chart 2014
I think that my goals/wardrobe holes line up pretty well together. This chart and my overall thought process does assume that some patterns will be made multiple times (I'm pretty good about making multiples of many of my knit top and knit dress patterns) and that there will likely be a few wadders in the group. However, I am hoping that by the end of 2014, I won't feel like I'm wearing the same 4-5 outfits all the time and will be able to mix and match things up a bit more.

You might also notice that the "stash plan" doesn't have many entries for Eva or David. The reason for this is that I'm pretty good about sewing things for Eva fairly soon within buying the pattern, so outside of a few Oliver + S patterns that were bought on sale, I don't really have a pattern stash for her yet. And I don't have much of a pattern stash for David because there aren't a whole lot of men's patterns out there, let alone patterns for larger men that don't require a ridiculous amount of grading. The first thing that I'll sew for him this will likely be the new HP men's t-shirt pattern, which I don't have in hand yet but ordered the day that it was released.

I have a few other sewing-related goals for the year, mostly related to refining certain skills and trying a few new things to step out of my comfort zone, but I'll save those for another post.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cursed projects: McCall's 6458 - Toddler pajamas

Note: I actually completed these back in 2013, but since they were a Christmas present for my daughter, I didn't get a chance to photograph them or really want to talk about them much before she had seen them. You have to keep some things a surprise, even for toddlers!

You know the type of sewing project...the ones where they should be easy, but it seems like every little thing goes wrong and every Big 4-ism seems ten times more annoying than it should be? These pajamas were one of Those Projects. Toddler pajamas.

McCall's 6458

A little history

A few months ago, shortly after purchasing my new-to-me Babylock Evolve serger/coverstitch, I   broke one of the two needles that the machine came with because I forgot to re-engage the knife when switching back to serger mode. Doh.

After running to several different local stores trying to find the correct needles for my machine, I ended up at Pacifc Fabrics, a store with a few locations around Seattle and a FANTASTIC selection of nice fabrics. While stopping by to get the needles, one fabric caught my eye. (Even though I wasn't fabric shopping and therefore not looking at fabric. At all. Pacific Fabrics had a nice beefy cotton flannel with a licensed Yo Gabba Gabba print. My daughter loves Yo Gabba Gabba. I had to buy the fabric, right?

I felt even more pressure once I got the fabric home; every time that Eva was in my sewing room, she'd manage to find "her Gabba fabric" (as it became known) and point to and name the different characters on the fabric. "Muno! Toodee!" She'd manage to find it even when I'd shoved it onto a shelve, pull of the fabric, and name characters. At this point, I decided that Gabba pajamas would make a great Christmas present, and I couldn't wait to see her face when she unwrapped her present and found that she could now actually wear her Gabba fabric!

The project

Toddler pajamas. What could be easier? Just a pair of elastic waist pants and a shirt with a convertible collar? I even found some really nice piping at Rose City Textiles on our Portland trip, so I decided to use McCall's 8458 for a pattern. Here's the line drawing--it looks like a pretty innocent pattern, doesn't it?
Granted, one of the reviews for the pattern was pretty negative, but I'm a reasonably experienced sewist, so how difficult could it be?
  • The first issue that I ran into is that the pants run ridiculously long. I chose the 2T size, figuring that they would be a little big but would then give my daughter more months of wearing. I had to shorten the pant hem by 3 inches once they were complete to make them wearable. (She's 18 months old and just over the 50th percentile in height for her age, to give you reference.)
  • The second issue that I ran into is that I stupidly followed McCall's construction order (sort of) for attaching the piped cuff. I have a fairly small free-arm space on my Bernina Activa 230, which allows me to sew into tight places pretty easily. The width of the cuff with the piping was too small to fit over the free arm, and with the added stiffness of the piping, this was a bear to attach. And the McCall's instructions actually wanted you to slip-stitch the inside part of the cuff to the sleeve. On toddler pajamas. I don't think so.
  • The third issue is that I had two glasses of wine before deciding to attach the button band to the shirt. When I went to attach the button band to the shirt front, I found that the button band appeared to be about 5/8" too short. So I shortened the button band by 5/8". Doh! The shirt runs nearly as long as the pants, so a pair of scissors and re-hemming the shirt fixed my mistake. (Full disclosure: I am still not sure whether the button band actually runs short or if post-glass-of-wine, I had misaligned the seams.)
After the button band incident, I was completely over this project and was actually glad that I'd be away from my sewing machine for two weeks.

I should note that the pattern envelope has the following warning:

"Note: The garments in this pack are not intended for sleep apparel."

I guess that makes it a perfect match for the fabric, which had the warning that it was "not suitable for children's sleepwear". Or maybe I should have taken those to warnings together as an omen?

The result

Thankfully, in spite of drafting issues and boneheaded mistakes, the final pajamas turned out cute:

Eva celebrates her Christmas PJ's with her bedtime bottle:


No, I don't think I'd sew these again. If I wanted to make toddler sized piped pajamas, I'd check out the Lazy Day Pajamas from Blank Slate or Sleepover Pajamas from Oliver + S. The only reason that I didn't do that this time was that I was cheap (McCalls were on sale for $1.99 at Hancocks) and lazy (didn't want to tape pages together from a PDF or trace). I think I've learned my lesson here--when there's an option from an established indie, go for the indie over the Big 4 pattern for toddler patterns.

Would I recommend this pattern to others? Eh, there really aren't many piped pajama patterns out there for toddlers, and you can certainly make this one work, but I'm not sure that it's worth the headache just to save a few dollars. Just be forewarned. At least the finished pajamas turned out cute, and my daughter loves them. That's what matters.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013: Year in review in (not) sewing

Happy New Year!

I managed to sew so little last year that I wasn't planning to do a "year in review" style post, but upon reading everyone else's in the sewing blogophere, I thought that it might be worthwhile to write one of my own for personal use/reflection. Our family moved three times in four months last year, and my machines spent most of that time in storage. Given that and the fact that I have a now-highly-mobile toddler, I guess I should be happy that I got any sewing at all done!

So, without any further delay, here is what I sewed in 2013:

Breakdown by recipient

  • Me - 11 projects
  • My daughter - 4 projects
  • My husband - 1 project
 Total number of projects: 16

I do promise to sew more for my husband this coming year! In fact, HotPatterns just released a new Men's t-shirt that will jump to the top of my sewing queue when it arrives in the mail:

Mr. HP Nice-and-easy T's

DH desperately needs some new t-shirts preferably (to me), ones that don't have sports team logos on them. I've had the Jalie men's tee pattern for a little while, but have had concerns that the Jalie men's body type is completely different from my husband's and was dreading re-drafting the pattern significantly. If the HP men's draft is similar to the women's, it will be a little more forgiving to those of us who have some extra pounds. I am really looking forward to trying this one out.

Breakdown by project type

  • Knit tops -  7
  • Knit dresses -3
  • Leggings - 2
  • Pajama sets - 2
  • Handbag - 1
  • Halloween costume - 1
I stuck almost entire with knits last year, which makes sense given that I focused mainly on easy, instant gratification projects with my lack of time and scattered attention.

Breakdown by pattern company

  • Cake patterns - 4 patterns tried, 7 projects completed
  • HotPatterns - 2 patterns tried, 3 projects completed
  • McCall's - 2 patterns tried, 2 projects completed
  • Jalie - 1 pattern tried, 2 projects completed
  • Simplicity - 1 pattern tried, 1 project completed
  • Blank Slate - 1 pattern tried, 1 project completed

Personal trends of 2013

I didn't make this decision consciously, but looking back over the past year's projects I see that I got multiple uses out of a pattern a lot more often than I used to. I'm really happy about that, given that I'm drawn to indie patterns that run a bit more expensive than the $0.99/$1.99 patterns that you pick up on sale at Hancock's and JoAnn's. I'd like to stick with this. Also, as I noted above, I stuck almost exclusively with sewing knits last year. I expect both of these trends to continue into 2014.

Highlights of 2014

Favorite project

Honestly, I think that my favorite thing that I sewed last year was my daughter's Halloween costume, which I made from a McCall's pattern. This project took forever, but I'm really happy with how it turned out:
World's cutest skunk

Most-used project

Hands-down, my most used project would be my HotPattern's "Mommy tote". This is a really great, versatile bag that can hold an awful lot of stuff:
HotPatterns Mommy Tote

Most interesting pattern tried

I loved, loved, loved the draft-your-own pattern concept that went along with the Espresso leggings, and I loved how fast and easy these were to sew. I've made two pairs so far and expect to make many more next year:

Espresso leggings + cat

New-to-me pattern company

I tried a Blank Slate download PDF pattern a few months ago and loved how the top that I made for my daughter turned out. I really like a lot of this company's designs; they're a lot more practical for an active young child than some of the other kid-oriented indie companies. I mean, ruffled sundresses and ruffled pants are cute and all, but my daughter wants to play in the mud and splash in puddles. Sundresses also just aren't practical most of the year now that we live in Seattle. In any case, the one pattern that I tried from Blank Slate was encouraging and I expect to make more from them:

Blank Slate Beachy Boatneck Tee

No wadders!

I have no idea how this happened, but I somehow avoided having a wadder all year last year. I think that this was due mainly to luck and sticking with easy knit projects, but it was still nice to not "waste" any precious sewing time or fabric. Obviously, I don't expect a repeat of this in 2014.