It's my birthday!
There's not a lot exciting about birthdays in your thirties. No major milestones. No new privileges. So, to mark my thirty second birthday I decided to treat myself to something special and frivolous; I sewed a party dress.
I don't have a lot of reasons to wear frilly dresses, so I tend not to sew them often, but I do have some special occasion fabrics stashed away that deserve to be sewn into garments. When I initially started shopping my stash, it was my plan to use a length of blue and white vintage dotted tulle for the skirt of this dress. I searched for a coordinating bodice fabric and found a length of vintage lace.
I didn't want the design on the lace to get lost or blend into my lining fabric, so I chose to use a nude tone cotton to underline. I gathered my skirt fabric and set it aside. Then, I got to work sewing my bodice. When I'd finished, I was pleased with the way my bodice looked, however, I didn't like the way it paired with my tulle. Fortunately, I was able to reconfigure my original plan; I had enough lace to gather into a suitably swishy skirt.
The really fun thing about sewing with fancy fabrics is having the opportunity to play with some different sewing techniques. On my skirt, I used an overlapped lace seaming method. This method gives the illusion that the lace pattern is continuous around the entire skirt and helps the seams appear mostly invisible and blend into the skirt.
Not only is this dress sewn from vintage fabrics, it's sewn using vintage McCall's 5842. This was my second time sewing this pattern so I didn't make a muslin before starting. My bodice is a little roomy, but it's not overly so, and I don't feel the need to tweak it any.
It was fun and a little silly dressing up with no apparent reason today. We took a stroll downtown for something sweet to eat and walked around town. I felt overdressed amongst the crowds of people in t-shirts, but it also made me feel just a little bit special, and that's what birthdays are all about, right?
The sun is shining and temperatures are rising here in Illinois. Weather like this makes it hard to want to spend any amount of time indoors. Lately, the focus of my productivity is heavily concentrated on yard work and gardening. But, there's nothing like a new pattern release to kickstart the creative engine, and the latest Closet Case Patterns got me really revved up and ready to sew!
Morgan Jeans are a relaxed fit boyfriend jean. They're intended for use with rigid, non-stretch denim fabrics. As a newbie jeans maker, I have a limited knowledge base on denim fabric. Mostly, I'm learning about different fabric characteristics as I sew. The denim I used to sew these jeans was purchased at Vogue Fabrics warehouse sale. The warehouse sale provides a great opportunity to get excellent per yard prices on fabric, with the catch that you have to buy entire rolls in order to purchase fabric at those prices. Fortunately, I went to the sale with a group and was able to split two rolls of different denims with other sewers, but I still ended up going home with a giant pile of fabric. I wasn't exactly sure what I would sew with this denim at the time I bought it. I found a jeans pattern for Mike (that I haven't opened yet) that will work well with this denim. If this denim was raw denim at the time I bought it, I completely "ruined" it by pre-washing it as soon as it came into the house. I can't be certain what weight this fabric is, but I estimate it to be either 12oz or 12.5 oz. It's heavier than the other types of denim I've worked with and the lack of stretch fiber makes it fairly inflexible.
Knowing that this fabric would not allow for a lot of flexibility, I decided to cut them a size bigger than I cut my Ginger Jeans. This pair of Morgan jeans are a straight size ten with the rise shortened by 1.25". They sit below my natural waist, but above the fullest part of my hip curve. I cut the full length version of these jeans, because I knew I wanted to have the option to cuff them. After I'd constructed them, I took a solid four inches length from the bottom of the leg before hemming.
Once I'd sewn these jeans together, I decided to be adventurous and do a little bit of distressing. I have to tell you, this was only slightly terrifying. I've never distressed anything before, and the risk of potentially destroying something I'd spent hours creating lingered in the back of my mind the entire time I worked on these. Before getting started, I did a little bit of research. I settled on methods for dry processing my jeans. This basically means, I didn't use any sort of chemical wash or bleach to fade or distress them. Instead, I worked on my jeans while they were dry using sand paper and a lemon zester. I found it very helpful to look at a variety of different jean fades as inspiration. This website has a nice archive of raw denim fades to flip through to see different wear patterns and markings. And, I found this video very helpful as a starting point for figuring out how to position my whiskers and use sandpaper for hand scraping fade patterns down the fronts of my legs, around the curve of my bottom, and over the edges of my waistband and pockets.
The overall effect of my dry processing is subtle, but I assure you, it's a drastically different look from the solid indigo I started out with. The rest of my distressing was done using a lemon zester, my seam ripper and this instructional. I considered going farther with my distressing, but decided to save that for future pairs. Now that my confidence is a little higher, I don't think I'll have any problems shredding into my next pair of Morgan jeans. There's really nothing to fear; I would advise you to practice with your tools before starting to work on your garment. I practiced with three different grits of sandpaper, hand sanding, and power sanding before settling on a combination of 220 grit hand scraping. I also roughed up scraps with my lemon zester before tearing into my jeans. Also, I caution you to take care when you're sanding over any areas of top stitching. I was careless and accidentally popped a couple stitches.
Up top, I'm wearing a Wiksten Tank. This is one of those patterns I bought ages ago and let sit in the corner. Now, I'm kicking myself, because I could have a stack of these sewn and in rotation if I had been better about organizing my projects and priorities. This is a fabulous summer top! There's nothing fussy about it, which is exactly why it's so great. I sewed this version using a border print rayon purchased at an estate sale. This pattern was wonderful for letting the fabric shine, and the pocket really let me highlight the print. I chose to eliminate the armhole and neckline bindings on this. I didn't feel they were necessary. Instead, I double folded and stitched each, just as I did the hem.
I'm very pleased with the results of both these patterns, and know that I'll be sewing each of them again. Now that it's consistently nice outside, I'm starting to think more about summer sewing. I don't have any specific plans at this point, but I'm leaning in the direction of separates with scattered dresses. I sewed a lot of dresses last year and I think I could benefit from incorporating a bit more variety. We'll see how things play out. What sewing plans do you have set for the shifting season?
It's that time of year! It's MAY! Spring is on its way (in theory) and makers from all corners of the internet pledge to flaunt their Me-Made wardrobes throughout the course of the month!
This is my third year participating in Me-Made May. Already, this year is a little different for me than it has been in years past. I'm proud to say that I've done great work of building a really wearable wardrobe over the course of the last year! Previously, I found myself scrounging in the back of my closet for makes that never see the light of day and struggling to incorporate those garments into wearable outfits. This year, my biggest obstacle is making sure that I keep up with the laundry, because all of my favorite makes rotate through my wardrobe cycle on a regular basis!
I'm also very pleased to say that my efforts to sew more pants are paying off! All of my pants see a lot of love, including the pants in this post. These pants are my second pair of Manhattan Trousers. I cut and sewed this pair exactly as I sewed my first pair. The fabric I used for this version is a lighter weight wool suiting fabric, and surprise, the fit is different than with my first pair. However, that's not a bad thing in this instance. My first pair fit nicely, but I wish I had allowed for more room in the thigh to accommodate for sitting ease. This pair is much less rigid and doesn't feel at all restrictive when I sit. It's just another instance where I'm learning the subtle differences fabric choice makes in the final product. I'm curious to see how the fit changes with cottons and other types of wool. I plan to sew a small arsenal of these pants and already have some other basic bottom weight fabrics picked out of the stash. It's easy to build on a good foundation, and these pants serve that purpose.
Up top, I'm wearing a Grainline Studios Lark Tee. This pattern is just a really great basic tee pattern. Simple as that. A good tee is probably the most utilitarian garment a person can have.
For the duration of May, I've pledged to wear at least two Me-Made Outfit components each day, and I'm posting my daily updates on instagram (tresbienmichelle). Are you participating in MMMay16? What have you challenged yourself to accomplish with your makes this month?
Spring sweater might sound like an oxymoron to people in some parts of the world; here a spring day typically contains weather elements from each of the four seasons. Truly, the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes" gets thrown around ad nauseam from March until June while mother nature sorts herself out. It's crucial for a person to have all forms of apparel readily available at all times.
This particular sweater is Jean from issue 14 of Pom Pom Quarterly, knit using Lil Weasel house brand yarn that I purchased during our trip to Paris last fall. (worn here with my latest pair of Birkin Flares). The jewel toned yarns in PPQ14 are what initially caught my eye when they were released. I bought this yarn specifically with Jean in mind, and I knew I wanted a bright color. It's warm enough to really classify as jewel toned...The shade is softer and fairly aquamarine hued. Perfect for spring.
I knit size 1 of this pattern and find that it fits great but is just slightly bigger than I'd prefer at the bottom band. This, I'm sure can be attributed to the garter stitch, which, isn't the best stitch for the job, IMO. It does tie the cuffs and the cowl together nicely. If I were to do this again, I'd likely keep the garter and just knit fewer rows for a snugger fit.
More jeans. I did warn you about my denim buying spree. I'm completely determined for each of those fabrics to land in my closet in the form of finished garments, pronto. It's not stash if it never lands there, right? I try not to over-plan my sewing projects, but I do typically have a loose list of things I'd like to accomplish. Right now, that list includes a variety of separates to mix & match. Jeans are at the top of the priority list, because they're a four season garment for me.
This particular pair of jeans, however, are better suited to spring and summer than they are fall and winter. These are sewn using a Japanese Denim from Mood. As I said before, all the denims I bought are very different. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say this denim most closely compares to the 9oz cone denim I used to sew my first pair of Ginger Jeans, because this denim has a similar/high amount of stretch. This Japanese denim is, however, even lighter weight than the 9oz Cone Denim.
I used the Birkin Flares pattern for this pair of jeans. Following my first experience, I knew I wanted to make a couple minor changes to my second pair. I left this pair two inches longer than my first pair and took all the length from the line above the knee. I also tapered the leg between the thigh and the knee to really exaggerate the flare. Finally, since this denim has such a high amount of stretch, I cut them smaller than I had previously. This pair combines the rise of the size 26, the waist of the size 27 and the hip of the size 28.
I do wish this denim was a bit heavier. I think it would help prevent the outlines of the pocket bags from appearing so prominently on the outside of the jeans and make it easier to tuck a shirt into them. But, overall, I'm satisfied with how they turned out.
On the subject of shirts, this one is the Pauline Alice Carme Blouse. I made this blouse once before, alongside Nathalie. At the time I made it, I wasn't sure how I felt about this pattern. Since then, I've worn that blouse plenty! Currently, 70's style, peasant blouses are flashing all over my radar, so I decided I could use a couple more shirts from this pattern in my life. This pattern has some great details incorporated into it. The pin-tucked front yoke and the sleeve tabs make this pattern both interesting to sew and to look at. The colors in this fabric are best represented above. (The sun was playing peek-a-boo on us and it made it very difficult to capture both the shirt and the jeans accurately at the same time.)
My shirt fabric is estate sale stash fabric. In all likeliness, this cotton fabric is from the 70's, and I thought it was entertaining that the color scheme contained three of Pantone's trending colors for Spring 2016 (Peach Echo, Buttercup & Green Flash). It was a perfect storm. It's like this fabric was telling me what it wanted to be.
Following my first flirtation with jeans sewing, I went on a denim buying bender. I had a general understanding what I was looking for based on the recommendations of other jeans sewing bloggers, but I was completely surprised by the packages that landed on my doorstep!
The first two denims I bought are Cone Denim from Threadbare Fabrics. I bought yardage of both the 9oz S-gene and the 10.5 S-gene knowing that they were different weights but not thinking too deeply into it. WELL, these are two totally different fabrics! The 9oz is VERY stretchy while the 10.5 oz is nearly rigid. I was surprised, actually, how little stretch the 10.5 oz has. They are both beautiful. And, they are both considerably lighter than the denim I used when I sewed my Birkin Flares. I was a little confused by the contrast between them, then my next fabric delivery landed on my doorstep.
My second shipment of denim came from Mood. I ordered two Japanese Denims: Palace Blue (sold out)& Proenza Schouler Black. I also bought a generic White Denim. You guys. They are all totally different. None of the five denims I bought feels or behaves entirely similar to another. On a whole, my confusion deepened. But, I officially understood why both Lauren and Heather included instructions to BASTE fit before sewing any final stitching. Fabric always plays a role in the final fit of a garment, but when it comes to fitting jeans, fabric and fit are completely entangled!
I can say with confidence that I will have to sew different pattern sizes for each of those five different denims. The jeans in this post are sewn using the Ginger Jeans Pattern and 9oz Indigo Cone Denim. This was my first time sewing this pattern, and it was a really excellent experience. The pattern is well written, the instructions are clear, and Heather includes a series of tips and pointers on sewing jeans at the forward of the instructions that I found very handy and helpful. At this point in my sewing experience, I've only worked with five pants patterns, but of those five patterns, Heather's method for installing a fly is my ABSOLUTE favorite.
I very highly recommend this pattern to anyone looking to sew jeans. That said, I don't think this is the perfect pattern for MY BODY. My body is: petite. When I was deciding which size(s) to cut, I chose the lowest possible rise of the high waisted version. My hope was to achieve a mid-rise jean. And, I think that I achieved that, but I still could use a smidgen reduction in the rise. My body is: bottom-heavy. I have all my curve below the waist. And, that curve is quite dramatic. I also have thick thighs. SO, even with grading between sizes, I ended up with my most common RTW fit issue, gap waist. My finished Ginger jeans look and fit as well as most RTW jeans, but my goal with sewing is to have jeans that fit better than RTW.
The thing I like least about this pattern (really it's the only thing I can think of that I disliked) is that the waistband is cut to the same size as the actual waist measurement of the jeans. Since I sewed the Birkin Flares first, I was spoiled by Lauren's method of cutting the waistband on the stretch grain of the fabric with negative ease. Stretch easing the jeans to the waistband creates a REALLY nice fit between the hip and the waist, because it pulls everything inward.
I do want to have more pairs of skinnies in my closet. I think my next attempt will be a mash-up of the two patterns mentioned. (Binger Jeans?). And, I am head over heels for the 9oz Cone Denim I used on this pair. The color is BEAUTIFUL and it's lovely to wear. More of this fabric is on my shopping list... as soon as I finish sewing through my first denim splurge. :-D
At the onset of the year, I (un)officially deemed 2016 my "year of the trousers". I've been wanting to sew pants for a long time. I've collected a large pile of pants patterns in anticipation. I've stashed a wide range of bottom weight fabrics. Everything was ready and waiting for me.
I procrastinated pants sewing as long as I possibly could. I finally reached a breaking point. I completely backed myself into a corner. You see, for the same amount of time that I've been collecting pants patterns and fabrics, I also completely stopped buying RTW pants. I get a lot of mileage from my clothing, typically, but my dress pants were loved to death. I had a choice to make. Cave-in and buy pants or stop being such a wimp and sew some stinking pants, already!
TA DAH! My first pair of Manhattan trousers! Like most projects that I procrastinate on, these were far less daunting than I'd imagined them to be! Actually, this pattern goes together VERY quickly and VERY easily. The instructions are simply written and clear. The pants look exactly as expected by the line drawing. The pattern fit was on point with the way the provided measurements suggested these would fit. Also, this pattern is designed with petite body types in mind, so I didn't need to do any tweaking to the rise, which was a nice little pattern prepping treat!
As I mentioned, my pants situation is fairly desperate at the moment, so I've decided to start my mission with some solid basic items. These were sewn using a medium weight wool suiting fabric. The fit is fairly decent right out of the envelope. This fabric is very stable and doesn't have any stretch component to it. So, on future versions with similar types of fabric, I think I will give myself a little more room in the upper thigh. I don't notice any tightness in them until I sit, then the thigh is a little snug. I'm eager to make more of these pants. As soon as I can get a few pairs of neutral, (boring)basic pairs in my closet, I'd like to have a pair or two of bright color or patterned pairs.
Also, photographed in this post is my Lightweight Pullover. This pattern, by Hannah Fettig, has been in my favorites/queue for ages. Over the winter when I sorted through my stash and matched yarn to patterns, I made sure to include it in the mix. The yarn I used is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I love this yarn. I purchased this particular yarn from an estate sale, but I would specifically seek out and buy it again for future projects. It has a really gorgeous feel and drape, and the microfiber component of the blend provides a nice element of stability/structure to the final garment. I feel like I used to be really resistant to any yarn blend that included the tiniest amount of synthetic fiber, but I'm coming around.
There isn't anything complicated about this pattern. It was a really wonderful social knitting project. I do recommend having a side-project on hand to offset the boredom of knitting a mile of stockinette. Whining aside, it knits fast, and I do think the resulting garment is worth it. This sweater is really easy to wear. It dresses-up just as easily as it dresses down. Just as its name suggests, this is a nice light sweater. It's been great for unpredictable bursts of chilly spring weather.... we're having a lot of those. I already have plans in place to knit this again in a different yarn variety.
It feels pretty amazing to be filling some of the notable gaps in my closet! Sewing pants is going to give me a lot more options when it comes to separates and me-made outfit building!
After my last assessment of Mike's meager collection of handknit socks, I convinced myself to cast-on another pair for him immediately. Man socks are just. so. big. They push at my limit between the normally meditative state of pleasure induced by sock knitting and frustration.
Sometimes, while I'm working on them, I question whether I'm making any progress at all. When I finally get to the heel construction everything is good again. I start to feel renewed satisfaction in my decision to be selfless and knit socks for someone who loves them. The pleasure of casting off is short lived by the realization that I have to make a mate for that initial sock.
I give myself a pep-talk. The cycle begins again; this time, it's the last lap. Fueled by thoughts of the finish line, I keep knitting. I stop to complain. I consider starting something new. I start again. Then, it's over.
And, it's worth it. And, he reaches for them first when he looks in he sock drawer. He puts them on and smiles. And, I smile. And it makes me want to knit for him again and again.
A week without posting seems like a long break after maintaining a 2 a week pace for the past months. Unfortunately, it might get a little irregular around here for another month or so due to a particularly busy burst at work. Longer days in the office make for a lot less daylight to photograph, write and participate on social media. But, work is what makes play possible, at least in my case. I'm still around, just not as available as usual.
I do still have a couple projects to clear from the queue before springing ahead (HA!) into the new season. So, I wanted to quickly update this little space to say, "HELLO!" and share a little project I made for Mike.
This cardigan was sewn using M6803 (sadly, discontinued) in a sweater knit fabric we bought at Joann and using leftover jersey scraps from the stash. Like most patterns designed for knit fabrics, this comes together quickly. The pattern is nicely done and easy to follow. However, if I make this cardigan for mike again, I will make some adjustments to the sleeves and the front pieces, mostly by reducing the width of them for proportion. Surprisingly, we did not lengthen either the sleeves or the body of this cardigan! It was long enough for Mike as drafted.
I hope to check back with you soon. If I'm particularly diligent, I'll find time to schedule some posts. In the meantime I hope you're enjoying the season change, wherever you live and having fun making projects in preparation for a change in the weather!
It appears that Mother Nature has heard all the complaining I've been doing about cold weather. And, her response is generous. We're having our first full-on week of spring temperatures here! (HOORAY!!) It's amazing. It does mean I need to get my act together and finish posting winter projects to clear the decks for spring clothing, which I'm happy to report I started working on over the weekend.
The knitters among you might recognize this pattern as Riptide by Norah Gaughan from the Brooklyn Tweed Winter 16 collection. BT typically impresses with their fresh spin on classic knitwear designs, but the latest collection, really hit the mark. I want to knit it all! As instantly as I fell in love with this pattern, I wasn't sure I'd find time to knit this sweater before the end of the season until Liz knit it and reported on how quickly it came together AND, importantly, how much less yardage she used than what the pattern suggested.
The pattern estimates 1300yards of Bulky yarn for the smallest size. I didn't have 1300 yards of bulky stashed. I did, however, have 1100 yards of Elsebeth Lavold Chunky AL. Based on Liz's assessment of this sweater, that amount would be plenty. She was right! In fact, I only used about 950 yards to knit this. And, as you can see, I could have squeaked in under 900 if I had knit those sleeves a little shorter. From start to finish, this sweater took 6 days of periodic knitting (about 15hours total to knit). That's pretty quick, as far as sweaters are concerned. And, I love the result.