Monday, October 27, 2014

Max Wild Things Costume- Simplicity 2506

This is my first real Halloween costume. I feel like such a mom!

My mom always used to make our costumes. Actually, I remember it as being really stressful for her... it was always last minute, and her sewing machine had this quirky problem where the tension would go batty and there was nothing you could do about it. It was sure to happen when she was desperate to finish the costumes, early in the morning on the 31st of October! Years later when I learned to sew on that machine, I struggled with the same thing, and I tried everything to fix it with no avail. She eventually just bought a new machine!

The stress of the experience (my stress of watching her struggle!) made me promise myself that I would just go buy costumes for my kids. You only wear them for one night anyway! But she would have none of that-- never, ever did she allow us to go out in some plastic K-mart concoction. Now that I have my own daughter, I can't imagine sending her out in one of those plasticky things either!

So for Lilly's first two Halloweens, I found costumes at the great used kids stores in town, or made them up from easy materials that required minimal sewing (last year she was a black cat and a zombie, for different events). But this year I just sort of wanted to make her a costume. She is 2.75 years old, almost 3, so I figure it is probably the only year where she is going to get lots of opportunities to wear her costume and still doesn't have much opinion on what it is... so I get to choose!

I also wanted to make a costume that would have great dress-up potential and would have a life beyond Halloween. Somehow Max from the Wild Things came into my head, and there was no going back!

After the initial idea, things just started to fall in place. Any fleece sleeper or animal costume pattern could potentially work, so I ended up with Simplicity 2506 since my Joanne's had Simplicity patterns on sale for $1. In retrospect I can't say it was the ideal pattern, but I'll go into details on that later. I also found almost everything else I needed in a single trip to Joanne's, which is practically unheard of for any of my other sewing projects! I guess making costumes is a strength of such chain stores. I used a sheep-fleece "fur" for the outer fabric, and a microfleece for the lining. There is an 18 inch zipper up the front, and big oversized wooden buttons just for show (they were sort of a splurge, $3.50 each for 3 of them!). The claws are made from the microfleece, and the ears from the sheep-fleece. 

I made a bunch of alterations to the pattern. The pattern had cuffs on the arms and feet, and I ditched the cuffs and added length instead. The feet have elastic to keep them in place. 

The pattern had the zipper in the back, and I moved it to the front so that she could get in and out of it by herself. The pattern had a separate hood, but I attached it at the back of the neck.

The sizing of the pattern seemed off to me. I made the 3T size since that seemed closest to her measurements, and the 4T seemed much to large from the printed measurements on the pattern envelope. But the torso seems to just fit... I would have made the 4T if I had realized how short it was. And she isn't even in diapers, I don't think it would fit if she was! In fact, I added a "gusset" to the crotch to give it 2 more inches of room. 

The hood was sized S-M-L and I chose the Large, and it is also rather small. This might be due to my alterations though... the hood pattern is a 3 piece pattern, and the two side pieces had darts in them. I sewed up the darts and hated the look... it would be great for a mouse (which is one of the animals on the pattern envelope!) but was overly round for a good Max costume, which should look more like a cozy hood in my opinion. So I taped the darts closed and cut out some new side pieces, which gave a much better shape to the hood, but I suppose also caused it to lose volume. Anyway, it just fits, but I had to rig a closure for the under-chin part with elastic around an over-sized button. 

I also ran into trouble attaching the hood to the body. Naively, I just sewed the back of the hood to the back of the bodice, and as might be expected, this made the hood barely fit over her head. So I added a gusset, a sort of oval of fabric that gave an extra 2 inches to the back of the neck. This seems to have solved the problem. 

The back of the costume. You can sort of see the gusset I added between the costume and the hood, to give more room to move hear head around!

The original pattern didn't call for a lining. I can see why it might be practical not to line something that is meant just as a costume, but the sheep-fur fabric had a yucky poly back that I wasn't fond of. Also, I meant this costume to be more than just a one-time Halloween costume... I am hoping she'll play in it, and maybe snuggle up and sleep in it on a cold winter evening. So I made a lining by cutting all of the pattern pieces from the fleece. I used techniques I learned in lining a jacket (bagging the jacket lining) to attach the lining mostly by machine. I ended up hand-sewing the lining to one side of the zipper, everything else was machine-sewn.

 The claws were pretty easy. For the hands I just made some mitten-like pouches and sewed on some stuffed triangles. There is velcro to hold them out of the way while playing or eating.

For the feet I made a detachable claw that sits above her feet. It velcros in the back. There is an extra piece of velcro that attaches to a piece of velcro on the back of the leg of the costume to hold it in place. 

For the tail, Joannes had this amazing fur that was just the perfect racoon-y looking stuff, luxuriously furry. I drew out a simple tail, slightly wider in the middle than at the ends, sewed both sides, and stuffed it very lightly. I sewed a loop of 1/4 inch elastic to the top of the tail. 

On the costume, I made a slit in the seam where I wanted the tail to go, and sewed around it to reinforce it and prevent further unraveling. I sewed a button to the seam allowance just above the hole. The idea is that if I want to wash the costume, I can remove the tail, which might not hold up so well to the rough handling. The hardest part of making the tail was all of the bits of fur all over the place, and that was even after trying really hard not to cut too many of the fur strands (I cut the fur from the back, with my rotary, trying to cut mostly through just the backing).

The button on the inside of the costume where the elastic for the tail attaches.

For the crown, I drew a crown pattern on paper to match the circumference of head, then cut it out of the fabric with a seam allowance. The fabric is a gold poly-brocade with dragonflies on it... when I saw it, I knew it was perfect (and it was on sale, too!). 

Once sewn and lightly stuffed, I traced the points and circumference with another line of stitching, to "quilt" the stuffing in place. The back has a bit of elastic in it, but I neglected to leave extra fabric to allow the elastic to stretch, so it didn't end up being adjustable. 

But it fits her well, and she loves it... she'll wear it around the house for hours. The fur trim is hand sewn onto the bottom of the crown. I also sewed velcro to the inside of the crown and to the costume, so it will stay in place over her "ears" when she wears the costume. 

I had a hard time deciding what to make the whiskers out of. Pipe-cleaners seemed the obvious choice, but seemed too thick and quite honestly, a bit dangerous floating around at eye level among other toddlers. I think I would rather no whiskers! Someone online mentioned using bits of a plastic broom. None of our brooms were black plastic... but in keeping my eyes open, I found a broom in one of the places I frequent that had just the right plastic "straw" and I pilfered a few strands. I washed them up well with soap and water. To stabilize them in the costume I poked them through the hood in between the outer fabric and the lining, then tied a knot in the plastic. After closing the seam, they seem relatively secure.

The whole costume cost $50 in supplies from one Joanne's trip, and took perhaps 8 hours or so to make. That's just a guess, it might have been longer. It took up my sewing time for the past 3 weekends, but that isn't saying much since one of those weekends had almost no sewing time, and minding a toddler generally doesn't leave a whole lot of uninterrupted project time. There is someone on Etsy who makes amazing Max costumes, and her design was an inspiration to my own Max costume, but rather out of reach at $275. 

I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed making the costume! It helps that my sewing machine, while not fancy, is predictable and reliable (it was a gift from my mom!). I think it also helps that after 2 years of making all of my own clothes, I'm rather comfortable sewing with all sorts of materials and making linings for jackets and dresses. 

Also, it occurs to me that when sewing for my work/play/formal wardrobe, I feel pressure to make things look "finished" in a way that is professional, so it is sort of refreshing to make something that is whimsical and where flaws might be seen as adorable rather than embarrassing. And finally, I left myself enough time-- here I am blogging it a week before the 31st! (Okay, so we had a toddler Halloween party to attend last Saturday, but no I wasn't up all night the night before). 

Of course the greatest joy is seeing Lilly wear it! She told me straight out that she really likes it. However a bit of shyness is creeping in... we had a hard time getting it on her for the party, she just wanted to be herself and play all the games without the encumbrance of a costume. In her defense, the costume is rather warm for indoor play. This would actually be a good year for seasonally cool weather for trick-or-treating!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maternity Wrap Top: Megan Neilson Simplicity 1468

I've been eying this Megan Neilson maternity wrap top since I first saw it on her website. When I found out I was pregnant again, one of the first things I did was buy the pattern! It turns out that Simplicity bought the design and published it, so I picked it up at the next Simplicity patterns sale at Joanne's.

I do admit I had reservations, even before starting to sew it up. It promised to be both super cute, and super fussy to wear... and it has lived up to expectations!

I made it up in a micro-stripe stretchy rayon knit from my local fabric shop, Homespun. I loooove the knit, I bought it in two colors and might go back for more! The pattern sewed up really quickly. There are a couple of things that always irk me in Simplicity patterns, especially knit patterns-- the ridiculous amount of ease in the patterns, and sleeves with tons of sleeve header that you are supposed to ease in. I just can't understand why that is necessary on a knit pattern. However, this Megan Neilson/Simplicity pattern had none of that nonsense! I cut my prepregnancy size and it fits beautifully without removing inches from the side seams, and the sleeves sewed into the bodice beautifully without cutting off tons of sleeve header. Which is all good, considering I didn't make any sort of a muslin.

The called for seam finish is super simple, just turn the edges and sew. I used a twin needle to allow for some stretch.

So, as expected, the top looks sort of cute! And the clever design will certainly expand with a growing belly.

Also as expected... it is super fussy. The ties that wrap around the belly are ridiculously long... the sort of have to be I guess. But it is really awkward to put on, and the thought of having to fight with yards and yards of criss-crossing ties is enough to turn me off from wanting to put it on in the morning. That is sort of a personal preference though, I like my wardrobe to be pretty easy without much fussing, there is enough fussing in the morning with trying to get my 2 year old out the door!

Looking at the picture below, I'm reminded that I also dislike how the seams end up prominently displayed on my belly! I suppose more careful wrapping would fix this, but I just don't have the patience!


I probably should have expected the other fault... there is a high likelihood of wardrobe malfunction in this top. In fact, it is totally visible in the pictures. So, this top absolutely must be layered over a tank top, which sort of isn't my preference-- I dislike the lack of definition in a tank top, a bra gives a better profile. And even when layering over a tank, the tank sometimes peeps through... you can see it in the pictures. I really, really dislike having to constantly adjust my clothing throughout the day, not to mention the discomforting thought that students and colleagues might notice.

Do the flaws outweigh the benefits of this top? I'm undecided. I might just leave this top as is... its expandability might outweigh its flaws as I grow so massive that I don't fit into anything else! Or I might just take it apart and make it into a more practical top... I could very easily convert the bust into a faux wrap and add a ruched bodice. What do you think?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Suno mirrored paisley silk blouse: Simplicity 1661

Hello all! Sorry to have disappeared, but it was a confluence of factors that kept me away from my blog. A major one was the start of the school year, which just swept away my spare time like a stiff unrelenting wind. If I had any time at all, I put it into sewing! But things are easing off, at least for now, and I have a small pile of new makes to blog.

For example, take a look at this beauty!

It is a flowy silk blouse made in a gorgeous silk charmeuse from Emmaonesock. Do you realize I don't own a silk blouse that is less than 10 years old? And those old silk blouses that persist in my closet mostly don't get worn due to poor fit, in one way or another. I can't imagine why it has taken me this long to make a silk blouse because they are just heaven to wear, so light and silky.

The pattern is Simplicity 1661, which is just a joy to sew. It as a few quirks, such as a slit that goes halfway up the back. Who in their right mind thought that was a good idea, for anyone except a teenager going to a disco? But that is easy enough to fix, I just ignored the instruction to stop sewing the center back seam halfway down the back. It fits just fine without the slit.

Before I continue, do I look different to you?

Well... I'm pregnant! 17 weeks today, if I'm counting correctly! We are sooooo excited.

In all honesty, this was another thing that kept me away from my blog. You see, in my status as "advanced maternal age" (that would be anyone over 35, FYI) I was reluctant to announce my pregnancy before I was well into my 2nd trimester. I've miscarried in the past, and I had at least one chemical pregnancy this while trying to get pregnant, which renewed my fears about miscarrying. I'm also ridiculously paranoid about having a bad result on the genetic testing.

But as it turns out, this little fetus has passed all tests so far with flying colors, and she sure seems to be here to stay. She's taking over my body, as you can see! I feel HUGE. These pictures were sort of shocking to me when I first saw them.

They say that every pregnancy is different, and for my first trimester I was EXHAUSTED, which I expected. But this time I also have nausea, which I escaped from during my first pregnancy. On the one hand I welcome it, since your chances of miscarrying are much lower if you have nausea as a symptom. But on the other hand, it sucks. It is the weirdest sensation, since one does not usually want to eat when nauseous, but in this case, if I don't eat, I get more nauseous. So on the advice of my midwife, I'm munching all day, every hour or two at least, trying to stick to small portions of healthy foods. It is strange having to eat when I am not hungry. I also feel huge, and having to eat all day doesn't help that feeling. But having a healthy baby is the ultimate goal, so I'm just trying to ignore my vanity. Hopefully I'll be able to retake my body for my own in couple years when this little fetus/baby doesn't need it quite so desperately anymore!

Anyhow, the exhaustion has made me a bit less productive in my sewing, since laying on the couch is just sooooo enticing. But I had to do some sewing-- what is a pregnant gal to wear otherwise? I found Simplicity 1661 when I was looking for a flowy, non-clingy blouse to "hide" my pregnancy before I was ready to announce it. Of course, at this point, I'm not hiding much of anything, and I think it would actually look cute with a little belt above my belly, but I didn't have one handy to try out today.

Mostly I sewed the pattern up right out of the envelope, in my usual pre-pregnancy size. In Simplicity patterns, there is usually so much ease that I have to take things in, but in this case the ease gave me plenty of room for my growing body. I did add a bit of length though, all around, to account for my growing belly, and just a touch of width in the side seams to give me a bit more wear out of it for the coming months.

I don't know how I managed it, but I sort of mixed up the neck band with the sleeve band on one side. I think it isn't too terribly noticeable, despite the fact that I ended up using the non-bias cut neck band to finish the armhole! Definitely not suggested, but I was too lazy to undo it all when I realized my mistake. And the effect of using the armhole binding on the neck band is that it is just a bit thinner than it was meant to be.

Speaking of armholes, I decided to turn the binding to the inside and hand slip stitch it in place for a nicer finish. (I think the pattern has you turn the binding to the inside and machine stitch it, but I didn't read to carefully so don't quote me on that).

The most time consuming part of making the blouse was cutting it out, since I really wanted to utilize the pattern to create a mirror-image effect. I've been admiring a lot of runway and RTW fashions that have mirroring and totem-like effects, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at it. It is a bit funny that I ended up with a heart over my heart. If I had thought about it I might have switched the front and back to avoid such blatant cuteness. But it didn't occur to me, so I am just going with it!

I guess the only other thing I have to say about this pattern is that as usual, Simplicity seriously overestimates the amount of fabric needed. For version C, you are supposed to need 1 3/4 yards of 60 inch, and I think I had 1.5 yards of 58 inch fabric and there was plenty of room to luxuriously pattern match. And wait until you see the next version, which I eeked out of just over a yard... but that is for another post!

So that's all for now. More to come, as I catch up on my blogging! Some indy patterns... a Megan Neilson maternity pattern, and another Papercut pattern which I can't wait to show you but it has been too warm to wear lately.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Peter Max-esque Soma Tankini

Watch out, swimsuits are addictive... you can't make just one! Before I had finished my first one (the Stripey Soma), I was planning my next one. Part of that addiction is the Soma pattern itself-- I just love all of the variations, I want to make them all.

An added benefit is that the economizing side of my personality is feeling quite smug. Okay, lets do a bit of a tally. My last tankini was purchased many, many years ago from Title Nine Sports, and the going rate there is... $80 for a tankini top, and $50 for a bottom. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That's $130 for the ensemble. Yikes. Of course, I probably would have done some economy shopping and found some sales or something, and I certainly wouldn't have bought two new suits for that price.

For comparison, here are my estimated expenditures:

Soma Swimsuit Pattern from Papercut Patterns: $17
Swimsuit supplies ( $50 (swimwear elastic, bra strapping, foldover elastic, bra foam, black coated metal rings, lining in two colors, and $10 shipping). Lots leftover, BTW... enough to make a couple more suits!
1 yd Striped spandex: $13+$2 shipping
1 yd Black milliskin spandex: $9=$2 shipping
1 yd Peter Max swimwear from $26

Total cost: $119 (for two tankini style suits with bottoms)

Okay, so that's not cheap, but considering the going price of quality swimwear, not bad, right? Of course, the best thing is that these suits are totally custom-- they have the fit, coverage, and features that I want in a suit, and that's worth quite a lot!

About this fabric... I've actually had this swimsuit fabric in my stash for awhile. I bought it on total whim when it came up in the New Fabric listings at It was such a cool print, and how often do you see such a great print in a swimsuit fabric! It was listed as a "Peter Max" designer print, and I'm not sure if what was meant by that was that it was actually designed by Peter Max, or it just looks sort of Peter Max-esque. I'm going with the latter, since I have no evidence that it is the former. It isn't quite as psychedelic as most Peter Max prints... the colors are (to my delight!) rather harmonious.

In looking around for great prints in swimwear fabrics, it seems to be slim pickings. I was a bit tempted by Girl Charlee, but I'm sort of glad I stuck with my stash and spandex world after Cashmerette's experience with a lack of colorfastness. I almost purchased that very same fabric! How disappointing to put all of that work into a garment and have the quality of the fabric be an issue. I'm at least glad that they refunded her purchase.

But anyhow, I went with the stash for this one and I think it is a pretty darn awesome print. In fact, I'm going to put this forth as my first contribution to Tribute Month at Sewcialists. Don't you think Oonaballoona would looooove this print? I know, there was a whole Oonaballoona month last month, but I missed out and my admiration of her style is can't be contained in a single month!

Anyhow, back to the swimsuit. It is another Soma, I was just dying to try the cross-front version. I considered the one-piece, but I was a little uncertain that the one piece would have enough chest support for my girls. I actually thought the bikini version looked more supportive, since it had a band right under the breasts, rather than all the way down at the waist. So I ended up making the cross-front bikini top variation, and adding a tube of fabric to make it into a tankini. Because, as I've alluded to in the past, my abs are otherwise occupied expanding and contracting to accommodate little human beings, and not all stages of that process are beach-worthy!

The pattern came together pretty well. I followed the instructions for the most part, and made no fit adjustments until the very end. I actually found this version easier to sew than the last one since it didn't call for any zigzag topstitching, which I had such a problem with on the previous suit. Zigzagging the foldover elastic was no problem.

The one thing that I ended up having to fix is that the fabric at the top of the bra cups, in the little triangle created by the foldover elastic straps, wanted to bunch up a bit. So I ended up needing to decrease the width of the top of the bra cup by about 1/2 an inch. I took the 1/2 inch off of the inside of the bra and graded it in toward the cleavage. This was actually a total mistake, I meant to do it on the outside near the armpit, but it was late and I was momentarily confused. As it is, my version is just a tiny bit more low cut, which is not really a problem.

The arrow is pointing to the top of the bra cup, where I had to take off 1/2 inch to prevent gaping. I'm a bit embarrassed about that topstiching though, how sloppy!

I also added bra cups. I had some removable shaped foam cups around from my former Lululemon tank obsession, and these were perfect. I just sewed the cups into the lining with a wide zigzag. I made a guess as to placement, and actually I think I probably could have placed them a bit more towards the center. I may have to fix this at some point to prevent wardrobe malfunctions, but I'm not yet convinced that it is a real problem.

I had to make some decisions on how to finish the back of the suit with my tankini modification. I decided that the back clasp wasn't going to be useful, so I went with the crossed bra straps that are used in the one-piece version. I also sewed a bit of swimsuit elastic into the top of the tankini piece that would be exposed in the back to prevent gaping. And of course I crossed the straps in the back-- as has been previously noted, I have some of the world's most slopey shoulders.

For this tankini, I decided to incorporate a bit of ruching on the sides. I simply cut a 5 inch piece of swimwear elastic, and then stretched it and sewed it down to about 7 inches of the seam allowance at the bottom of the tankini. I then topstitched the seam allowance down with my twin needle so that the elastic was encased and not against my skin. I also hemmed the tankini with a twin needle.

One thing that frustrated me a bit was that I was completely unable to find foldover elastic in a 6/8ths width, which is what the pattern called for. I could only find 5/8ths width. Why does this matter, you ask? It's a small thing, but 6/8ths folded over would make a 3/8ths inch strap, which would have been the same width as the 3/8ths inch bra strapping. I know, it is a small detail, but it sort of irks me. I considered all sorts of ways to make the straps match. I briefly considered not folding the elastic in half equally... but that was super-duper fussy. I also thought about using the foldover elastic instead of bra strapping, but I liked the beefiness and softness of the bra strapping. So in the end I just went with it, and the 2.5/8ths folded elastic meets up with the 3/8ths bra strapping at the rings. If you are not staring at it, it is just fine really. But someone please tell me, can you get 6/8ths foldover elastic somewhere, or is it only available in New Zealand or something?

The bottoms went together without a hitch. As in the previous version in black, I did all topstitching with my twin needle.

The blue in this pick got a bit crazy! In reality it is more like the previous pics.

In anycase, I love my new suit! I think the pattern provides great camouflage real or perceived figure flaws, and the styling is quite clever.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Python blazer- Burdastyle Asymmetric Jacket #116

Walking around Rome this spring, I couldn't stop admiring all of the great asymmetric jackets. Some more moto, some more equestrian, made in wool, leather, canvas or cotton. I refrained from buying any-- instead, I came home with yards of italian wool! 

But when it came time to sit down and sew, I ended up pulling out this fabulous python ponte that I had picked up from Emmaonesock. I'm a little dubious about ponte as a jacket fabric... I had a RTW ponte blazer with me in Rome that pilled horribly. At the same time, I had a couple ponte tops made from ponte from Emmaonesock and Marcy Tilton that I wore constantly all spring and they didn't pill at all. So I guess I'm hoping my ponte is higher quality and will fare better than that RTW blazer! Just to tease me, I was halfway done with the blazer when I spotted a fantastic python denim at Emmaonesock... argh! 

The pattern is the Burdastyle Asymmetric Jacket #116. This was actually my very first foray into Burdastyle patterns. My first muslin for the jacket was awful. Too narrow in the bust- and I NEVER have that problem. I had traced the 42, the largest size on the pattern I downloaded. The size chart said the bust was 37 3/4, and I usually measure a 38. The next size up has a bust of 39 1/2... what is a size 38 girl supposed to do? I hate that I'm always between pattern sizes! So I basically ended up trying to grade the bust up a size, and the hips out a size (or two). I also increased the size of the armholes and widened the sleeves. I basically redrew the whole pattern! A couple muslins later I had a viable pattern.

I guess I should have guessed I'd have trouble... all people who have posted have mentioned how form fitting the pattern is, and they have mostly embraced the skin-tight look. But since I plan on wearing this at work over my usual tops, I want the fit to be a little more relaxed. 

Once I got to sewing, it came together pretty well. As is quite well known, Burdastyle directions are worse than useless, but how the pieces fit together was fairly self-explanatory. I found the cuffs to be difficult though. Trying to get the zipper to fit in smoothly and the cuffs to match perfectly was a B----! It would have been easier if the cuffs had been a single piece of fabric folded over, but for some reason I don't understand, they have a seam instead of a fold. In my opinion, just another place to introduce inconsistency. I'll definitely do it my way next time. 

Of course, the lining had to be hand sewn to the zipper. I did the rest of the lining using the numerous "bagging" tutorials on the internet.

The rest of the jacket was pretty darn simple. The collar was totally non-fussy. Even installing the asymmetric zip was pretty straightforward. 

All of the zippers are Riri zippers from Pacific Trimmings. They are just awesome zippers. I used two long zippers, and cut them to length as needed. 

I bought extra zippers stops which installed with pliers on the cuffs and at the top of the separating zipper on the front of the jacket. For the pocket zips, I didn't bother with zippers stops.

The lining is stretch silk charmeuse from Mood. The lining would have been straightforward too, had I not cut out the WRONG part of the front jacket piece! It looked totally wonky, and I had to tear it all out and do it over. Unfortunately, that means I had to do the zipper in the lining twice too! Argh! I could just have done away with it, but I just love having interior pockets too much, and I sucked it up and did it all over again with the right pattern piece. 

So that's about it! I looove my new jacket, I can't wait until it gets cool enough to wear it this fall!

Oh, and here is the rolled up sleeve shot, as demonstrated by the Burdastyle model. Who wears jackets this way anyway? Not me, but it does show off those cuffs that took so much work!