Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Learning to Use the Serger

When my Grandma passed away a year and a half ago I inherited her sewing machine and her serger. I have been using the sewing machine nearly daily since then, but the serger just sort of sat, forlorn and forgotten because I didn't know how to use it. I told myself it was because I wanted to get really good at more traditional clean seam finishes before learning to use the serger because it seems like cheating a little bit, but in reality I was also afraid to try and use it. I had used a serger on only one prior occasion and when I did I managed to cut a large hole in the fabric when I caught some excess fabric in the seam and I had to start all over again. It made me swear off machines that can so easily ruin projects.

Last weekend I finally screwed up my courage and pulled out the serger. I am a much better sewer now than I was a decade ago the last time I tried to use one so I was hopeful that this time it would go better.

The first thing I did was read the manual cover to cover. It had some very helpful tips on using the machine.

The second thing I did was clean it thoroughly. Check out the nice big ball of lint I got out of it. I'm guessing that Grandma's last project was green and white.

Then I surged the edges of a couple of fabrics that I needed to launder. I also took the opportunity to play with the tension so I could get a better idea of what was right or wrong and how to correct it. Much to my surprise adjusting the tension on the serger was actually easier than my sewing machine because everything is clearly labeled. 

And finally I actually made a couple of pairs of flannel pajama pants. (Did you know pajamas keep you even warmer if they have pictures of sweaters, mittens, socks, and hats? True story.)

I'm pleased with how well I lined up the pattern on the seams here.

And look at that nice, clean, serged seam.

I also made a pair with cupcakes and snowflakes, although I don't think you can actually see the snowflakes in the picture because they are white on very pale blue. 

The pattern I used is Butterick 5432 view G. I did have to make a few changes. If I had folded the waistband where they indicated the pajamas would have come up nearly to my nipples, so I folded nearly 4 inches down for the waistband. In the future I think I will just cut that part off. I also had to hem the pants higher than the pattern thought I would. Either I have really short legs, or Butterick was working on the assumption that the person making these pajama pants is 6 feet tall and nothing but leg. 

All in all, I am very happy with my new pajama pants and even happier that I finally conquered my fear of the serger. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tree Tunic

I know I've had a busy weekend when it is 8:30 on Sunday and I am only just sitting down to write my blog post. I've also nearly got the blog caught up with my projects. Clearly I need some extra time to spend crafting!

Today's project was one that I made last weekend. A couple of months ago I ordered some polyester crepe online. Shipping was nearly the same cost as a full yard of fabric so I ordered a second fabric to get free shipping. The second fabric was one that was cute, but I honestly wouldn't have ordered it just on its own. It was a fun Cotton + Steel print and I had heard three positive reviews of the brand from three separate sources within a week. Based on the picture online I thought it was a gray fabric with trees and dresses on it. It was fun and funky. I got two yards thinking it would make a cute, novel, skirt. Well, a week later I got an email saying the main fabric that I wanted as actually out of stock and unless I responded within 24 hours I would be refunded the price for it and just shipped the Cotton + Steel fabric. I read that email at hour 25, too late to cancel the order, which is what I would have done.

Fast forward another week and my single fabric arrived, and much to my horror it was not gray, it was more of an olivey-gray-green color. It also had white blobby ghosts on it that I hadn't noticed in the picture online. It was in no way shape or form a neutral and I think it would have made an awful skirt because I would never have found a top that looked cute with it. So, greatly disappointed, I put it in the stash and moved on.

Last weekend I pulled it back out. Maybe it's because Halloween is so close, but I felt like it was time to do something with the slightly creepy fabric. I decided on a tunic and pulled out the Simplicity pattern from Sailboats Galore Again and got to work. This time I left off the pockets and used grosgrain ribbon for the ties. I used single fold bias tape to hem to hem the arm and neck openings, but I did a simple narrow hem for the bottom of the tunic.

And here it is from the front:

And a view of the back. 

I really like this tunic pattern. I think it made the most of the slightly odd pattern of the fabric. I should have taken a picture of just the fabric because you can't really see the details of it in either of these pictures. 

And I will say this for the weird color: I think it makes my hazel eyes look a bit greener.

I might by Cotton + Steel again because it was a nice quality cotton, but I will not be buying it online again.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sweaters: the Good and the Bad

So, remember back in August when I wrote this post about my orange cardigan and how much I liked it? Remember how at the end of the post I said I was a bit bummed that the yarn was handwash only, but it wasn't that big a deal? Yeah...I totally felted that sweater. I didn't even realize that it had ended up in the wash.

That face is the one that Fiance calls my "Muppet Face" because apparently only puppets should be able to frown that deeply. He thinks it's a creepy face, but I think it's appropriate for felting a sweater. Obviously the sweater didn't shrink too much, and it is still wearable, but it doesn't hang right anymore. I think it shrank more in length than width and the seams are oddly stiff now making the hips flair in odd ways. 

Not totally ruined, but not wonderful anymore either. 

In better news I finished a new sweater this week. 

This one is also made with knit picks yarn, this time it's Palette. This one is also not superwash, so again I'll need to be careful (a bit more careful this time) when washing. I like the Palette line of yarns because it comes in so many wonderful colors, and it is inexpensive. It's got a little bit of that wool itch, but not enough to keep me from wearing it next to my skin. I used the color Hazelnut for this sweater, and it is a wonderful rich brown.  It's a bit lighter than it looks in the pictures. We've entered the rainy season here in Washington so I'm having problems getting good lighting for pictures again. 

The pattern is Casual Lace by Justyna Lorkowska. I know you can't really see the lace pattern in these pictures (grrrrr bad lighting) but it is a pretty pattern. It's a top down knit, I modified the sleeve length to be 3/4 because I have a habit of pushing my sleeves up and ruining them getting them all stretched out that way. One of the things I particularly liked about this pattern was the twisted rib used at cuffs, collar and bottom/button bands. I meant to take a close up picture of it and compare it to regular rib so you could see the difference, but I forgot. Oops. 

So, one messed up sweater, but one that turned out well. And maybe someday I'll even finish that darn sock...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wedding Dress Ideas

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I spent last week at my future in-laws house (oh gosh, can I just say that I love calling them that?) so I didn't get a lot done in the way of crafting, but I did spend the week looking at silk swatches (and sometimes fondling, and sometimes rubbing them on my face like the weirdo that I am (I can't help it, they feel so nice)) for my wedding dress. I'm, like, 95% sure that I don't want to wear a white dress, but just in case I did get some white swatches. This one is my favorite of the shades of white:

And below is the one that I'm pretty sure will be the main fabric for my wedding dress. I didn't want white, but I didn't really want to depart too far from white either, and blue is sort of my signature color. I guess teal is really my signature color, but Fiance asked that I not wear teal, so blue it is. I like this shade because it is blue, but sort of just barely.

And this is the color I want to use for a sash around my waist. It's a teensy bit lighter in real life, and it is almost the same color of my favorite invitations. Plus I think it would look great as a pocket square for Fiance (I've already decided that he gets a gray linen vest for his wedding outfit). I'm not into matching outfits, but I do like the idea of subtle continuity between our outfits. 

I was thinking about a sweetheart corset top and a floor-length full but limp skirt, but when I expressed that to Fiance he said "What? Don't do that. That would be horrible." While I'm not going to bend over backward to accommodate his wishes I also want to wear something he will think is pretty, so I think I will make a corset to wear under the dress, but do a retro feeling, maybe tea-length, dress. I love 50s style poofy dresses, and my wedding is sort of the perfect occasion to wear one. Plus I have a just below knee-length organza petticoat already in my closet waiting for the perfect occasion. I'm not giving up my sweetheart neckline though. 

I've still got 10 months to finalize ideas, but I'm having a lot of fun thinking about it right now.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Burlap Curtains

As I've said before Fiance and I had an anniversary party in August. I am not a fan of single use items so when Mom insisted that we had table coverings I said we absolutely could not use those nasty plastic ones from Party City, they are far too wasteful. If that's what you are into fine, but I like natural materials and I like reusing and repurposing. I wanted natural burlap, but Mom insisted on red as it matched our decor better. So red burlap it was. Fine with me, I will use the natural burlap that I wanted at our wedding instead.

I repurposed that red burlap into new curtains to cover our closet. Fiance got home from work, walked into the bedroom and said "Wow. That is very red." He is not wrong.

I do think they would look cuter if they were natural colored. On the upside, the fabric was cheap and it took no time at all to make them. I used the selvedge edges, but I did fold them over and sew them down, then I hemmed the bottom and finally I folded about 4 inches of the top down to make a channel for the curtain rod. I didn't bother to measure the length for the curtains I just held it up and roughly cut it at the bottom. I also did not bothering tugging everything on grain. They are pretty sloppy, all things considered, but it only took half an hour and they cover up our clothes so I say mission accomplished.

The same day I made the curtains I also cleaned my sewing machine. It was making a slightly funny sound, and I realized that I had been neglecting to do some important maintenance. I clean lint out every time I change bobbin thread, but I rarely remove the needle plate.

I took the needle plate off so I could clean the hook race and feed dogs. 

I meant to take a picture of the ball of lint I got out (it was about the size of my pinky nail), but I got distracted. When I finished cleaning everything I sewed the curtains and got little red threads all over everything and I had to take it all apart and clean it again. Oh well. Lesson learned: sew with burlap, then clean your machine. Order of operation sometimes matters. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Linen Pencil Skirt

Last post I talked about my linen pleated skirt that didn't go according to plan, this post I want to share with you a linen skirt that worked out just fine.

Even though I really like the company that I work for, I was trying to make a nice outfit for job interviews because Fiance and I wanted to move back down south of Seattle to be close to our friends again and it didn't look like I could move and keep my current job. But I totally lucked out because a position within my company opened up in Tacoma, so now I don't have to find a new job. Hurray!

However, having a nice professional outfit ready to go is not a bad idea, so I decided to continue with the project anyway. I had some black linen left over from the pleated skirt, and pencil skirts don't really require a lot in the way of fabric. I used the McCall's pattern 5523 view d. It was a super simple pattern to make. I used french seams to make sure everything was nice and clean and neat on the inside.

I am pretty happy with the way the skirt came out, but holy smokes that thing about linen wrinkling is totally true. I had the skirt all nice and pressed when I finished sewing it, but it was too dark for pictures at that point, so I hung it up. When I took it out to take pictures less than a week later this is what it looked like.

I can live with the wrinkling, I'll just have to allot extra time for ironing whenever I wear this skirt. I should have pressed it before I took pictures, but I was in a hurry, so we are pretending that I did it this way to show the wrinkle factor. 

And the back is so cute. I love the little ruffle details. It is professional and fun at the same time. 

All in all I am happy with the way it turned out. It fits me well, the length is good, and I can totally wear it to interviews or to the once a year meeting that requires more professional attire. Or any other semi-nice occasion. I will need to make a black slip to wear underneath it though. The skirt isn't lined and I feel like the fabrics got just a hair too loose a weave to risk not having a slip. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Not to Make a Pleated Skirt

I swear this is my last post about the weekend at the Wooden Boat Festival. I wanted to keep my boat themed outfits going so I wore my t-shirt with anchors on it. I made the t-shirt ages ago, but the skirt was one I had only recently finished.

When I started the skirt I had intended to make a tutorial on how to make a pleated skirt, but I pretty much did absolutely everything wrong, so instead I'm calling this how not to make a pleated skirt. 

 First: fabric choice. I used a mid-weight linen from I chose linen for a couple of reasons:
 1) I thought because it wrinkles easily it would hold a crease for the pleats. WRONG. The pleats were totally invisible, like, 30 minutes after I pressed them in. The wrinkles stayed just fine though.
2) There is a dress I want to make that incorporates pleats and before I used up four yards of linen on it I wanted to know if my finished object (FO) would look any good. I've now learned not to use linen for that dress.
3) I figured even if the linen didn't hold the pleats I would still end up with a cute, dirndl looking skirt, so it as a fairly low-risk experiment.

I will say that this linen is absolutely scrumptious. I love it. And I was at least right that even though the skirt didn't come out the way I envisioned I do still like the FO. Next time though I will skip the pleating and just gather the waistband like I did for my pink skirt.

So, I cut out a rectangle of fabric, carefully making sure that it was on grain and started marking my pleats at the top. Those white lines are 1/2 inch apart.

And here I'm about half way through gathering all the pleats. There ended up being 52 pleats. I pressed them all down once they were pinned. And this is where I stopped taking pictures because things started going wrong. 

My fabric managed the slip off grain, so when I sewed in my pleats they looked crooked. Bummer. I also sewed them down four inches and then realized that it looked ridiculous and unflattering, 2 inches would have been plenty. I solved that my nixing the waistband. Instead, I just folded over my pleated section. The pleats made the fabric plenty stiff and stable, so I didn't bother with interfacing or anything. That part actually went rather well. 

A note on zipper installation: linen unravels like crazy, so I gave myself a full inch of seam allowance for the zipper and did a clean seam finish before installing the zipper.

I had wanted the skirt to sit a couple inches below my waist and come to my knees. But it ended up too small to sit that low. I tried adding fabric, but I added too much, then realized the couple inches I needed to add looked ridiculous so I took it back off and just decided to wear it at my waist. That's the fashion now anyway. It's also shorter than I wanted because I'm wearing it high, and I lost two inches doing the waistband. My butt isn't hanging out though, so I can live with it. In fact, I think it's still longer than similar skirts I've seen in stores, and again this makes it more in keeping with current fashion. 

All in all, even though everything went wrong I'm still happy with the FO. It'll look cute in the fall/winter with tights, or in the spring/summer without which was part of my hope. I probably won't make a skirt this way again, but at least this one worked out alright.