Sewing


Birthday Dress
As Little Miss Cleaver is several weeks into her one-year-old-ness and several friends and family have had welcomed new babies in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few heady days of parenting of how quickly your life shifts to a new norm, and then I thought about how it’s changed what I make and why.

Thanks to Mr. Cleaver’s keen understanding of how making stuff is important to me, I’ve been able to do a fair amount of sewing since LMC’s birth. However, two vital things have changed about my sewing time. One, it’s in shorter spurts now and perhaps less frequent, but all the more welcome and two, the things I make are usually, though not always, for someone with wee clothing needs a bit different from own. Because of these two changes, I’ve experienced a few new things about sewing that I thought I’d share.
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1. Trying out new things is easier when the project is small

Before I started sewing baby stuff, I had never completed a project in knit fabric. I’d made a few attempts in the past, but never really finished anything. Then I decided to make some envelope tees. The fabric was fairly stable (interlock) and the seams were all of six inches long. It was a small enough project that even if I screwed it up, I was out of a quarter of a yard of fabric, maybe. I’ve probably made about ten or so since, some in interlock, some in jersey, some hacked together with the Geranium pattern into dresses.

Having worked in this small scale, I’m much more comfortable with knits and am eyeballing some larger-scale knit projects for myself.
Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress
2. There’s frosting, there’s cake, and then there’s bread. And there is nothing wrong with sewing any of them.

Tasia coined the whole frosting vs. cake terminology, but sometimes, even cake is too fancy of a word for some items.

There are a lot of things that I used to think that I’d never bother making, because they were just too dull and/or readily available inexpensively. Like solid-colored t-shirts, non-fancy underwear, leggings, plain socks. But then you figure out that those ready available things are kinda cruddy. The number of onesies we bought that got holes in the fabric is astonishing, especially considering the early ones that were worn for maybe 3 months by something that didn’t move much.

Now I haven’t made any onesies, mostly because I’ve yet to have any luck with inserting snaps, despite several efforts (any suggestions welcomed!), but if I could get over that snap-inserting hump I totally would the next time I needed onesies. Because there’s a certain satisfaction to pulling something out of the drawer and wearing it on a daily basis and having the fabric be nice, and the seams finished well, even if it’s super dull.
My style and sewing has become more utilitarian these days, and as much fun as it is to spend days making a fabulous dress, my current dream sewing project list is full of things those things that I never thought I’d ever bother to sew.

That’s not to say I don’t make the occasional fabulous piece of cake or frosting, like the Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress seen above or the wear-it-once Ewok costume , both of which were totally worth the extra effort in my opinion.
My creation
3. Multiples are your friends.

Not every project has to be a special snowflake. When you make multiples of something you only have to cut/trace the pattern in each size once and depending on your fabric, you can cut out multiple projects at the same, getting to the actual sewing quicker. A huge plus when your sewing time is more limited.

When you do the same thing multiple times, you learn from your mistakes and get better. And generally faster at it too. This can be particularly helpful if you’re making those everyday bread pieces and need a bunch of them.

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4. When in doubt, make the longer version.

It has been my experience that babies grow taller much faster than they grow wider, which means those leggings turn to capris, those pants to shorts, and those dresses to tunics.

Little Miss Cleaver was about 6 weeks old when she first started wearing that green dress. As a one-year old she still has a lovely tunic that she wears. In that case, the knit fabric also helps, but I’ve been able to stretch the life of many a handmade baby item, simply by making the longer version.

 

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5. You’ve probably already got a fabric stash, so stock-up on notions

I’ve got enough adorable novelty prints to last me three years (at least), so if I want to do a project, I’ve probably already got some fabricI can use, but having a good supply of buttons and piping and zippers and thread in a variety of colors means I don’t have to use my sewing time on a trip to the store that inevitably takes longer than I want it to.

Since I am sadly, not someone who ever inherited mason jars full of fabulous vintage buttons, I early on bought a bunch of packs of multicolored buttons in various sizes that have been indispensable. I learned my lesson and also have a good stash of elastic in various widths and plenty of machine needles. Figure out what you use a lot of and get a ton.

Also, when it comes to matching colors, there is such a thing as good enough. When my mother first taught me to sew, we would go to the store, pick out a pattern, pick out the fabric and carefully select a thread color to match exactly. Now I have one thread storage box that holds about 40 spools, and generally there’s something there that is close enough (unless it’s orange, apparently I have no orange thread), or maybe that project will look great with contrasting thread!

I’d also like to work on having a good stash of quality solid fabrics to use for contrasting yokes and linings.

And one bonus comment, that relates to baby clothing in general:
If it’s a practical button (i.e. one that you have to actually use to get an item on and off your child), anything smaller than ½” is just so not worth the trouble. Maybe 3/8.” Maybe.

 

Anything your kids have taught you about sewing? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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The weather this winter has been… weird. It was very very cold, then rather warm (high 30s!), then it snowed, and it’s going to be very cold again this week. At least I married a meteorology nut who could warn me before I walk out the door in something inappropriate (temperature-wise, style-wise is still up to me).

Regardless of its day to vagaries, you know a winter in Maine is going to be long (hiya snow in April!) and generally cold (remember when I called high 30s warm?).  So it behooves me to made sure my kid has some good winter gear. Her Memere provided the snowsuit, and obviously we have plenty of sweaters, but a good everyday coat? I found stylish ones that seemed warm enough hard to find.

So armed with the leftover wool from my lady grey, some star-studded minky from JoAnn’s, and some extra time over the holidays, I made up ithinksew’s Mackenzie Jacket into a cozy coat just after Christmas. To ensure it fit (both because of the thicker fabric and long winter season), I made the 12 month size, so it’s a little roomy now (LMC’s ten months now), but I imagine that before the winter’s out it’ll fit just fine. I did however, hem the coat much shorter than suggested, as it seemed almost floor-length.

My other nod to cold-weather practicality was a pair of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s baby leggings, knit out of little less than a skein of Dirty Dyework’s Edna in celery. I finished these back in early December, methinks. I had to modify the gauge a bit for the lighter weight yarn, and I shortened the rise, but otherwise, followed the pattern exactly. I probably should have made two pairs, but it’s unlikely that’ll happen now. Looking at those snowman-making photos from today though, makes me think LMC should probably have some mittens, but considering our success rate with keeping socks on her feet, I can’t imagine keeping mittens on her hands would be any easier.

The little gnome piece is the Maggie Mae Tunic from Shwin Designs. 12 month-size, tunic length. The armholes seemed a bit small, so I made them open up further down the bodice. I also added the piping, which I think adds a lot to the top, but I would add it in a different order than I did here next time (and they’ll most likely be a few next times).  Mr. Cleaver is very good about letting me get some sewing time in on the weekends if I want/need it and sometimes LMC will even provide a nap assist. Simple projects make it easier to get stuff done, which means I’ve been mostly making baby things, but I’m hoping to squeeze and item or two for me in there at some point.

Though the mornings are still largely unpredictable in terms of waking time, our nights have taken on a certain rhythm, which means that I’m getting more time to knit and yes, design again. I’ve got one project in the works right now that’ll be coming out in June and another submission in for a Winter issue (fingers crossed),  so it’ll be a while before there will be anything to see from it all, but it feels good to be getting back on the design wagon.

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Come Friday, Little Miss Cleaver (LMC or Miss C.) will be a month old (well, four weeks). It’s hard to believe a) that it’s been a month already and b) that’s she’s only been in our lives a month. The nights are long and the days are short and we couldn’t be happier.

I’ve managed to get in a little sewing, and Miss C. went to her first knit night last week and got tons of cuddles and mom got to use two hands at once. I spend a lot of time just looking at her and thinking how beautiful she is and how amazing it is that she’s ours.

I love being a mom to this little wigglebottom.

I have a confession to make.

I’ve become addicted to sewing baby clothes.

Teeny tiny adorable baby clothes.

When I started my sewing for the Wee Baby T, I avoided clothes as I didn’t have a good idea of what size babies actually are (still don’t really).

So I made other practical things: some bibs, a carrier, a nursing pillow, a toy or two.

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But then Made by Rae came out with the Geranium dress pattern and I was overcome with the cuteness. I downloaded the pattern the day it became available and set about to sewing it shortly after. It sat finished except for the closure for a while (I made several failed attempts at snaps, but need to purchase better snaps methinks), before I finally added some buttons. In the meantime, my addiction lay latent, as yet unknown.

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I had intended to sew some more baby clothes, in fact the weekend after we found out the gender I went and bought a bunch of fabric and some patterns for that express purpose, but still I held back.

Then a few weeks ago I was hit hard by the nesting instinct.

It started simply, an envelope tee from Growing Up Sew Liberated. But there was something thrilling about it. The tee was so little! It took such little time to sew! And I had successfully sewn something with knits for the first time!

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I started digging through my stash, pattern books, and pinterest to see what else I could make. I came up with the fabric for another tee and started planning for my next projects.

A few weekends and a few trips to JoAnn’s later (and a new found appreciation for sewing multiples assembly-line style), we have all this:

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Patterns from top to bottom:
Envelope tees from Growing Up Sew Liberated.
Geranium Dress from Made by Rae
Reversible baby pants from Growing Up Sew Liberated.
Baby Tights from Made by Rae
Basic Newborn Pants from Made by Rae

And I have more fabric! And more patterns! And more plans!

Who knows what my sewing time will be like in the not-so-distant future, but as long as that babe stays inside, she’s getting better dressed by the weekend. [Note to Wee Baby T: this does not mean you should take this as an opportunity to be overdue] ;)

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I know, it’s like a disease, but I can’t stop making School House Tunics. Especially when I realized that they make great maternity wear. Aside from my normal modifications (button loops, pin tucks), I added a couple extra inches to the front skirt, making the pleats deeper and giving myself some extra belly room going forward.

I probably needed to make some room adjustments to the bodice, and I likely will on the next one, because of course there’ll be a next one. You should probably be grateful that I purchased another Sew Liberated pattern (the Sunday Picnic blouse) for the spring/summer, otherwise, there would be no stopping the madness.

Have you done any maternity sewing? Have a favorite maternity pattern? Have any standard patterns that would work well for growing bellies/pregnant ladies? Let me know!

(P.S. If you like the cowl, it’s my free Knoll Rib Cowl pattern, more about it here.)

I’m a big Mad Men fan, but don’t tell me anything about the current season, because I only get to watch it when the dvds come out, so we can chat about it in 4 months or so.

In that vein, this post is appropriately a bit overdue. Back in Season 4, I grew very fond of the Dr. Faye character and I also fell in love with this skirted suit from the “Hand and Knees” episode.

Dr. Faye via Tom And Lornenzo

In some ways it seems more Banana Republic than 1960s, but then I found Simplicity 2154, a 1960′s reproduction pattern and though, it’s both!

Recently finding myself in need of a warm-weather appropriate suit for my DC trip, I pulled out the pattern and several yards of heavyweight linen from Z Fabrics and put this together over a weekend.

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The coat is a fairly boxy design, which I decided was maybe not the most flattering on me, so it’s belted in all these photos. Even if it’s not the best cut for me, I believe the fit is spot on. If you wanted to slim it up some, I recommend narrowing the side gusset over choosing an allover smaller size.

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The jacket has a fun construction, with the  front/back body and sleeve cut in a single piece, and an underarm gusset panel. Not counting the facings, the pattern in a total of 6 pieces. Attaching the top of the gusset to the underarm of the sleeve was a bit fiddly, but otherwise the jacket was very easy to sew. I actually had more issues with the pencil skirt (fitting ugh!).

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Because the jacket is unlined, I finished all the seams with either purchased bias tape (about 2 packages) or by self-hemming after I ran out of bias tape for the facings and underarm.

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I don’t often need to wear a suit, but with a lady suit like this in my wardrobe, I might find a few more excuses!

 

 

 

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I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this here before, but I’m a bit of a comic book geek. My comic love was rooted in the90′s X-Men cartoon, but really got it’s start in college, when I would drive my friend James to new comic book day every week. In return for transport, I could read all the comics he brought back, and from then on I was hooked.

So when I saw this LaFrock dress on Pinterest, I quickly decided that I MUST make one of my own. As in I found appropriate fabric and ordered it the next day.

I actually found the fabric used in the dress above (Alexander Henry’s “Sewing is Easy Print”), but I wanted to kick up the nerdiness a notch and picked this “Girl Power” print from Camelot Cottons, which features Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and my personal favorite, Batgirl.

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The dress is cobbled together from two patterns, the waistband and bodice are from Colette Patterns Parfait, and the skirt and pockets from McCalls 4826. Despite some issues with the front bodice facing, I really liked the way the bodice came together and I have some lengths of linen I’m eyeballing to become a straight up Parfait this summer.

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The dress is super comfy and is maybe one of my favorite things ever.

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I spent a solid day putting the whole dress together, because I had a deadline to meet…

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Free Comic Book Day!

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A lovely event that happened this past Saturday (and the first Saturday in March every year, in case your planning your 2013 calendar). And where else to wear your comic book dress than to hang out with cosplayers and get a dozen free comic books??

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

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A few weeks ago Tasia had a great post on sewing “frosting” (fun, often patterned, not necessarily everyday items) versus sewing “cake” (basics, everyday wear).

Like most sewists, I definitely fall on the side of being drawn to frosting projects over cake projects – personally, I would be happy sewing nothing but pretty dresses, even if I wear a dress maybe once a week. But recently I’ve been finding a bit more balance between projects like my houndstooth dress, which I enjoyed sewing, think is awesome, but only wear occasionally:

Fall Palette Challenge : Houndstooth Dress

and my slew of School House Tunics that I wear practically every time they’re clean enough to wear.
My creation

This weekend, I focused on some serious cake.

But that isn’t to say cake can’t be fun too.

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Sure it’s a basic black skirt, but have you seen the inside??

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In typical Leah fashion, I took a simple project (Colette Patterns Ginger, a total of four pieces), and made it 100% more complicated by adding pockets and finishing all the seams with home-made bias binding.

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That said, I’m pretty pleased with the finished product, even if the fabric seems to spontaneously generate lint. If I had to make any changes I would have 1) used a stiffer interfacing in the waistband 2) gone a size down in the waist and 3) done the recommended hem length (I did a bit deeper hem).

(Might still do that last one).

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I’m fairly certain this basic will get heaps of wear, especially since it looks so fantastic with my saddle shoes. :)

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Oh and I should say that I’m not abandoning the pursuit of frosting, because my next project may very well prove to be the most fantastic, least practical thing I’ve sewn since my Halloween costume. (Still wondering where I can wear that).

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Not this weekend, but the one before, I squeezed in some time to sew, and churned out this blouse, which I decided I also need to make in a swiss dot someday.

The pattern is the 1960′s reproduction pattern Simplicity 2154, and I even bought a bunch of yardage of linen to make the rest of the suit (which strangely enough, about the same number of total pieces that this blouse).

 

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I love the fabric, which is a sturdy cotton from Lotta Jansdotter’s line that I picked up at Z Fabrics. My only two mods to the pattern were extremely minor: 1) I decreased the seam allowance along the hips, and 2) I did the “Mena Test” of Sew Weekly fame and omitted the side zipper.

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The top is sleeveless, but it was way too cold/windy to bare arms on the day I took these photos, but they’re finished off nicely with some bias binding.  The whole thing is pretty simple to sew and I can’t get over how nicely the collar lies.  Yep, I definitely need at least one more of these!

This is the last one of these for a while, as I’ve finally run through all the fabric I purchased to make School House Tunics, so I’ll be moving onto other patterns in the near future, I promise!

For this take on the School House Tunic, I added 4 inches to the tunic-length to make it dress-length for me; added a series of three pintucks to each side of yoke; and made it short-sleeved, because I ran out of fabric.

The fabric itself is a cotton/linen blend in a color Bristol will want to steal from me, that I picked up at Z Fabrics.

I think this version will get a ton of wear in the warmer months, but for now I’m pairing it up with some tights, boots and a long-sleeved tee.

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