For the Love of Leggings

I’ve only recently jumped on the leggings bandwagon (crazy, I know, as they’ve been the hot item for quite a while now). I have tried (RTW) leggings in the past, with only limited success.  If you can call it success.  It seems like all the leggings I’ve tried either roll down from my waist and bunch up at my hips, or they end up digging into my waist and cutting me in half, with a complimentary cameltoe bonus–not exactly the comfy wunderpants I’d been promised!  Plus, finding anything but boring black in plus sizes is a bit of a challenge.  I even tried sewing my own from an activewear/running tights pattern, but the size was all over the place (fit OK in the waist, but saggy in the butt and knees and too tight through the calves–awful on my body).  So I gave up and determined that leggings were not for moi.

But then I stumbled across the Patterns for Pirates Peg Leg leggings in a facebook group.  The hook was tons of photos of people, of all shapes & sizes, wearing their newly minted leggings, and every one of them looked fabulous!  So I decided to give the pattern a shot.  And that pattern rocked my legging-less world.  They have a wide, yoga-style waistband that keeps them in place and is comfy to wear (I admit I added some height to the waistband because I prefer a higher rise, but it was only about 3/4″ overall).  The inseam hits me perfectly, and the shape fits me well all down the legs!

My first pair was in a cheap JoAnn’s 4-way stretch knit with giant roses on a black background.  I think I got it in the bargain bin for a couple bucks a yard, and had no idea what I’d make with it when I got it home–the fabric felt very un-me.  So I wouldn’t be too torn up if they turned out to be wadders.

You’ll pardon the crazy striped shirt/floral legging combo, no? I was too excited to change into a solid top!

Happily, they turned out awesome.  I love them far more than I ever though possible–who knew I’d actually enjoy wearing a massive floral print!?

My second pair was out of some “knit denim” that I got from GirlCharlee. I had completely missed the fact that it was knit when I ordered it (I know, I know, I have no excuses–it’s a knit fabric website, but whatever!).  I love that it’s indigo on one side and bright green on the other, but since it wasn’t stretch denim (of the woven variety), it didn’t work for what I originally had in mind for it.  Ever since it’s been languishing in my stash without a purpose.  Sad!

I kind of love the faint greenish glow this fabric has!

The knit denim didn’t have as much stretch as my cheapie JoAnn fabric (it claimed to be 4-way stretch, but was only 4% lycra), so I think I should have gone up a size in the leggings–these are pretty tight.  I may slit them up the outer sides and add a contrast band of green up the legs to fix the fit.  I have enough fabric leftover to make another solid pair, too.  It’s a great weight for fall leggings (a nice mid-weight knit).

In the process of discovering wearable leggings, I also fell a little bit down the rabbit hole of custom printed knit fabrics.  My main source for knits has been either my local fabric shop (which has a small, but high quality selection), or JoAnns (which has a small, low quality selection, but the price is right).  I found a few purveyors of custom knits (in the same FB group that led me to the pattern) and realized that I can actually get my hands on activewear quality fabric!  But for a price!  But 88% polyester, 12% lycra fabric!!!!  Which naturally leads to the realization that I can make my own damn yoga pants!

I picked up a couple yards of 88/12 knit from Zenith & Quasar (who had the best price, but limited to solid colors), and I also ordered a yard of Spoonflower’s new “Sport Lycra” (which has yet to arrive thanks to the usual Spoonflower processing times…but someday…).

For the yoga leggings, I knew I wanted to add a small diamond-shaped gusset to the leggings.  All my beloved Nike pants have this, and I think it’s why they’re so long-lasting (I find the rear crotch seam and the 4-way meet of all the seams are the first things to bust on cheaper knockoff pants…)  Unfortunately, Nike doesn’t make the style I like anymore (of course!), so I’m stuck flying by the seat of my pants (ha!) to come up with a replacement!


Me Made Wardrobe Schemes – Fall & Winter Sewing

Something different that I’ve noticed lately is that I keep grabbing my me-made clothing out of the closet over my RTW stuff.  I think this is happening thanks to a couple things…First, I’ve gotten over my “fear” of working with knits.  I took an honest appraising look at what I choose to wear 99% of the the time, and it is not fit-n-flare woven dresses.  It is jeans, leggings, t-shirts, tunics, sweaters, long-sleeve knit tops, cardigans, and the occasional hoodie/jacket, also generally knit.  So my stash of patterns for non-knit stuff is largely aspirational sewing gear.  Which is perfectly fine, but if I’m sitting around bemoaning that I never LOVE the stuff I make, and all my patterns are for stuff I don’t love to wear, well…I think you can see where the disconnect is happening.

I also brushed up my knit sewing skills.  I was having trouble with getting professional-looking seams and hems, so I researched the bejeezus out of it and discovered things like wash-away hem tape, fusible but stretchy stabilizer strips, and using clear elastic to reinforce weight-bearing seams.  I also realized I need to embrace the proper care and feeding of knit fabric–not all of it has enough stretch to recover its shape if you stick it in the dryer.  Lay flat to dry really does need to happen with certain fabrics.

And the biggest one–I’ve finally found a few tried-and-true patterns that don’t require tweaking to create comfy, pretty clothes that I want to wear.  I’m on the upper end of the size range, and while I absolutely don’t mind the occasional challenge of grading up a garment to fit me, I also realized that, every so often, I really crave making things that just work out of the gate, or that require just the normal pattern tweaking (add/remove length, FBAs, etc.) and not a complete and total makeover before I can even think about making a muslin.  I admit it’s been mostly through trial and error, but I have a small collection of patterns that are either tweaked to perfection or great off the bat, and I can mash them together to make what I have in mind pretty confidently, which, it turns out, is great for my sewing mojo!

I’m also getting a little more adventurous as I gain confidence.  I recently tried out a pattern for leggings and LOVED them. Totally unexpected result!  They fit and they’re comfy and I totally understand why people try to wear them everywhere (they’re still not pants, though, at least for me…a shirt of some sort must cover the booty!).  But I loved them and immediately made another pair.  (I may have also been avoiding laundry–John chides me that making more pants does not solve that particular problem…I chuckle because he has no idea the depths of my fabric stash…mwahahahahahaha).  Anyhow.   Back on track.

So fall sewing.  I’ve long thougth that my “style” (if you will) is essentially a fall/winter wardrobe that gets pulled into the rest of the seasons for the ride.  I love cardigans and scarves and sweaters and long pants, layering tees, hats, boots, and thick wool socks.  In the fall and winter, I feel pretty stylish, as everybody else is wearing all the things I love to wear.  In the spring and summer, I drag my fall/winter clothes along, only casting things aside once they become too warm to bear.  I swap tank tops for sweaters, drop the socks and scarves, and eventually give in and wear shorts because pants are ludicrous in the swampy heat and humidity of late MN summer.  And as the weather cools heading toward fall, I start adding the fall/winter clothes back until I’m back to my comfort zone.

Between the impending fall season and my recent discovery that I really prefer me-made clothes to RTW (both wearing and procuring them!), I decided to sew myself a little wardrobe for fall and winter this year.  I know that sounds ambitious.  It is.  I ran it past John and he gave me a little side eye and suggested I come up with a detailed plan (oh I do love that man–detailed plans are the best sort!) before going off the fabric deep end (his term, not mine!).  Which, all things considered, is sound advice.  I took my usual clothing budget and transformed most of it into a fabric budget (still buying socks and undies and tights RTW), then went window shopping to see what I could come up with.  I’m pretty pleased with what I found, so without further ado, here’s the plan!

Cardigans are up first – 4 total, two open/drapey cardigans, one boyfriend-ish cardigan, and one cocoon style cardigan.

I’ll do a 3/4 sleeve in the black & white stripe and a full sleeve version in the cream & white stripe; both are mid-weight sweater knits.

Simple black ponte cocoon sweater.

A boyfriend-ish cardigan in abstract grey/ivory houndstooth sweater knit.

On the bottom, I’m mostly sticking with RTW jeans since my fleet is in good shape and fits well, but I’m also trying out some heavier denim “jeggings” since I have some suuuuuper stretchy denim knit in my stash (with a nifty green reverse side).  It wasn’t at all what I expected when I ordered it (kind of missed that it was a knit at all!) but it’ll be perfect for leggings.  I also want to try making some slim-fitting ponte pants, also with stash fabric.

Leggings will have yoga-style waist band for comfort.

The plan is to use grey for the top and bottom panels and teal at the knees, but I may chicken out and go monochrome if I have enough of one fabric).

Under my cardigans and over my leggings I have a few things planned, but most all are “tunic length” to accommodate the planned leggings.  I’ve got some short sleeved, slim, almost shift-like tops on deck, as well as some dolman sweaters with 3/4 sleeves.  Also giving pattern mashing a try as I add sleeves to swing tanks to make flowy tunics.  I have one wrap top on my list, too, and finally a few 3/4 sleeve shirts that hit at low hip for layering.

The floral is a pretty large-scale print, and the teal is a sweater knit.

The green stripe is a mid-weight sweater knit, the blue heather is a lighter weight sweater knit.

Both the grey and periwinkle are jersey knits. Imagine the line drawings with 3/4 sleeves!

Might scoop out the front neckline a little to be able to skip the zip in the center back? But overall I really like the shape on this one. Will use some stashed teal ponte.

All 4 fabrics are a lighter jersey. I’m thinking a variety of hemlines and probably 3/4 or short sleeves.

All in all, I figure about 25 hours of sewing to get it all done.  I want to tweak the dolman sleeves to be more fitted from the bicep down (they’re pretty loose in my previous makes for this pattern), but otherwise it’s all stuff I’ve made before in different permutations.  The color palate ended up being black, grey, & cream neutrals with purples, teals, greens, and a few artsy prints.  I’m pretty excited to start sewing, but of course, must wait for my fabric order to arrive for most of it.  And I have a few end-of-season outdoor house projects to finish up first, so that’s probably for the best!

A Tale of Two Maxi Skirts

A couple days before our road trip up to John’s family cabin in the Michigan UP, I decided I wanted, nay, needed a new maxi skirt for the occasion.  It promised to be a hot, long car trip as we were caravanning with his sister and her kiddos, making a couple stops along the way…so what is usually a scant 5 hour drive was looking more like an 8 hour trek.  Comfort and coolness would be paramount, and the idea of wearing jeans or even shorts for that drive was utterly unappealing.  And I had two whole days between the moment the inspiration struck and our estimate departure–plenty of time to rifle through my knit fabric stack and pull something together, no?!

My last foray into maxi skirts was a summer ago, when I made my very first maxi, and a chevron striped one, at that, using the Amy pattern from Greenstyle (really a solid A-line maxi if you’re in the market!).  I remembered it taking ages to get all those stripes lined up into proper chevrons (gah!) so I figured I’d go for a solid color and skip all that angst this time.  I found a nice drapey blue jersey (probably pure polyester judging by its slipperiness and poor reaction to my iron’s high setting).  Since I already had my pattern all assembled and traced out, cutting was a breeze, and assembly was equally fast without the added challenge of mitered strip matching!  The skirt was finished (apart from hemming) in under an hour!

I quick tried it on to check fit and noticed right away that Houston had a problem.  A polka-dotted problem, to be precise.  Because the skirt was a little, ahem, sheer.  So sheer that my polka dot undies were shining through rather obviously.  Drat.  It’d be fine for around the house, but I’d really rather not flash my knickers across two states.  Of course, the fit otherwise was flawless.  Back to the drawing board, er, fabric stash.

The draw of the cobalt blue jersey (aside from it’s amazing color) was that I had a 2.5 yard piece of it, and the pattern calls for 2.25 for a maxi, which is pretty spot on.  All my other cuts of knit are in 1 or 2 yard increments, just a smidgebit too short if we’re being really technical.  Too bad…no time to be technical, there’s a skirt to be made!

I pulled a green tone-on-tone stripe out of the stash…it was a hair over 2 yards, long enough to get the front and back of the skirt out of it, though not quite enough to get the waistband pieces.  I turned to some trusty navy/aqua knit for those and made a contrasting band.

I’m not 100% on the contrasting waistband, but there was no way to get it all to match without ordering more of the green stripe (and at this point, I was down to <24 hours to liftoff–not an option!).  I also didn’t bother to match stripes at the side seams (I actually had to cut a tiny bit off-grain to get enough fabric, so there was no chance of a perfect match…but the striping is pretty subtle, so it doesn’t really bother me…too much).  Also due to lack of enough yardage, this skirt has an obvious front & back–the front is about an inch shorter than the back (which isn’t really all that noticeable unless I’m wearing it backwards).

It did turn out to be a comfy skirt for the road, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too hard.  Though I definitely need to start ordering fabric in 2.5 yard increments!  Also, having worn the green skirt a few times, I really should have reinforced the waist seam with some elastic, as it has a penchant for growing a bit as I wear it…noted for next time!

Vintage Vibes Redux!

A little bit ago I copied a vintage apron for my sis-in-law.  And that one turned out so well, I made another!  But this time I jazzed it up a little more (and by “jazzed it up”, I mean used pom pom trim and enormous ric rac.  It is awesome!).

I’ve had this giant ric rac (and just a single yard, at that) for ages…it came in a grab bag of trim remnants I found at a garage sale a while back, and I’ve been saving it for just the right project.  Well, when I found this fabric (Anna Marie Horner, if I recall the selvedges correctly), I knew it was a match made in heaven  because not only did it match my ridiculous ric rac, it also matched my 16″ piece of turquoise pom pom trim (yes, from the same garage sale bag of wonders).  You guys–this was FATE!  I neeeeeeded to happen!

I won’t bore you with another construction run down–this one is the exact same except that I remembered to sandwitch the ties and back waist seam between the bias tape and the main fabric, so all my edges are enclosed this time (it’s the little things, amIright?!).

Here’s the front view:

And the rear view (oh, that giant ric rac…it slays me).

And a delicious detail shot–gotta love that trim!  I had juuuuust enough to do a row of pom poms on each pocket!

The Long and the Shorts of It!

I’m going to make a confession here…I hate shorts.  Well, let me clarify.  I’ve never in my adult memory had a pair of shorts I’ve loved.  They are always riding up, skootching down, cutting me in half, rolling up funny in the legs, or just plain unattractive to behold.  So what I really think I mean to confess, is that I’ve gone my entire adult life with shorts that don’t fit properly.  There, yes, that’s it!

The real unfortunate thing that this confession highlights is that, for the last decade of my life (and, dare I suggest, perhaps even further back), summers could have been soooo much more comfortable!  I’ve been living in MN 10 years now, and our summers–they are ridiculously hot.  It’s not just the heat, it’s the swampy humidity kicked off from the lightly simmering 10,000 mosquito breeding grounds I mean, lakes.  It’s sticky folks.  Sticky and hot.  And I dread those days like none other.  Mostly I’d hide out in Air-Conditioned havens (my sewing room, work, movie theaters).  The idea of sitting in the back yard (in the shade–this pasty skin of mine does not do direct sun for long!) was abominable.  Remember that scene from the Little Mermaid where King Triton barks out “I abhor humans!”?  (Of course you do…I knew we were friends for a reason!)…That’s how I felt about MN summers.  Until I made myself some honest-to-goodness-I-measured-before-I-sewed-them shorts.  Shorts that were, I don’t mind saying, life changing.

So which shorts, I’m sure you’re asking?!  The Tap Shorts from Katey & Laney.  I actually bought the pattern for these last summer (le sigh…if only I’d known), but put off making them because I needed to grade them up a few sizes to fit me.  And, you know, grading sounds like work.  The grading turned out to be easier and harder than I thought.  Easy because, as A-line shorts, it’s pretty simple to just make them wider at the side seams and move the back darts over a smidge to re-center them.  Harder because I don’t need as much extra fabric at the legs as I do at the waist/tummy area, so the legs of the shorts ended up a tad…voluminous.  But so, so, SO comfy.  But voluminous–verging on culottes territory.  But they’re so breezy.  And the high waist means the waist stays put–no rolling or pinching.  I may try adjusting the width of the legs just a smidge on the next pair (as well as brushing up my invisible zip skillz–egad), but I really like the distinct A-line shape, so maybe not!

Apologies for the wrinkly fabric, this was after a few hours wear. And you can totally see the extra fabric flaring out at the sides, but oh well!

I did make these up in an upholstery-weight cotton sateen, so that stiffer fabric may have something to do with the fluffy silhouette of the shorts in general.  But it’s also a nice sturdy fabric and looks crisp and fresh even after a day of pedaling around in the heat from one taproom to the next (why, yes, I did field test my new shorts on a pubcrawl…awesomeness ensued).

Emboldened by my foray into shorts-ville (it’s a thing, m’kay?) I decided to try out the Nantucket Shorts that came in the last issue of Seamwork (I was a little dubious when they first announced these easy magazine patterns, but like all Colette stuff I’ve worked with, this pattern was solid!).  I picked out some mid-weight woven navy blue cotton that looks a lot like linen (but isn’t) from my stash (yay stash busting!…this had originally been earmarked for a shirt for John, but he rarely wears the grey one I made in the same fabric because he has to iron it first…puh-leez).

Me & my mutant sunflowers!

The Nantucket shorts came together really easily, though I probably could have gotten away cutting them out one size smaller–I was between sizes and opted up, so there’s a little more bunching around the waist than I’d like, strictly speaking.   For such simple shorts, they look really interesting (something about the combo of the runners’ shorts styling and the eyelets, I think).  And again, they’re super breezy and comfy.  All told, about 4 hours from assembling the pattern to finishing touches.

Rear view. Clearly these legs need more sun exposure in their lives…

This was my first time installing eyelets, and it was pretty easy (though my cat protested all the banging about).  I really want to make myself another pair (a size down, perhaps) in the orange chambray I have lurking in my stash…

And, of course, the obligatory awkward-rear-selfie as I checked fit immediately post-sewing…

Parlez-vous français?

(For the record, I do not speak French, but I’m not letting that stop me!)

I’ve tackled another Crescent Skirt…I loved the fit of the last one I made, and wanted something in a bit of a darker color scheme (fall is coming sometime, right?)  And I wanted to tackle zips again…glutton for punishment, I know.  Also, I needed a project to take along to the Sewtropolis Sew-cial (ha ha ha groan, I know…can’t blame me for that pun!) and the pattern was easy to hand!

I got about two hours of sewing in at the Sew-cial, which with my snail-speed sewing means I got my interfacing firmly affixed to all the waistband pieces, and got the pockets sewn on.  I decided to do French seams for the pocket  bottoms and totally fell in love.  In my quest to leave no seam raw-edged and unfinished, French seams are the perfect seam.  All the raw edges are neatly ensconced in the seam, and it lays super flat.  Love it!

The only thing about French seams is that the sewing just feels wrong, because for starters, you sew with the wrong sides of the fabric together.  Gah!  For someone who may or may not have sewn more than one seam in-side out, sewing with wrong-sides together is kind of nerve-wracking!

Gah!  Looks so wrong, but it’s all good!

All the raw edges are neatly hidden inside, never to be seen again once this new seam is sewn down!  (Also, yes, I have discovered the awesomeness that is masking tape for keeping seam allowances accurate!  It rocks!)

So neat!  So tidy!  How can you not love this?!

OK, so moving beyond the pockets…there’s a few differences between this version of the skirt and the last one.  One major difference is paying much much more attention to gathering evenly.  One thing I noticed about the last skirt I made was that the gathers sort of petered out toward the end of the gathering section because my basting stitches slipped a bit.  I figured out a handy way to fix this: wrap the tails of the basting threads on one end around a pin, like so:

This kept the gathers from slipping off toward the edge, and as I sewed along, I pulled the pin out just like any other pin (but straightened out the wad of thread so it didn’t create any strange bumps in the seams).  Took a few extra steps, but worked like a charm!  This skirt has very even gathering all around!

I also decided to top-stitch the waistband in the same mustardy gold color as the center of the flowers.  It turned out really nicely, I think!

It’s pretty subtle (which is what I was going for), AND I managed to sew in a straight line along the curved seams (yay!!)

I’m not quite done with the skirt just yet (decided to quit while I was ahead last night…I think zipper installation is best done when I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!).  I have the waistband facing left to do, the zipper, and the hemming.  I don’t think French seams and zippers are super-compatible (at least, I can’t envision how they play nicely together), so I need to figure out what I want to do for finishing the center back seam along the zipper (bias binding, maybe? or perhaps a foray into Hong Kong seams?!).  This skirt is really coming together nicely, though…I can’t wait to wear it.

And, can I just say, I love this fabric?  Purple and white and a hint of mustard are perfect together!  And from afar, it might even pass for snowflakes!  (Have I mentioned I’m ready for fall?!)

A little bit biased…

I’ve made several actual, wearable garments lately, and they all have one thing in common…they look suuuuuuuuuuuper messy on the inside (and you know that old saying, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” right?!).  I usually “finish” my edges by zigzagging along the very edge (I think this might also be called “overcasting” but that sounds way gloomier than zigzagging!)  It works.  Stuff washes and doesn’t unravel, and the seams lie flat.  But it’s not very pretty up in there.

My Sorbetto pattern attempts taught me to make my own bias tape (first the hard way, then the easy way!), and I’ve seen blogs around the internet where people use bias tape to cover up those nasty seam edges (well, OK, nasty might be a strong word, but…it’s apt, I think!).  And that didn’t seem that hard.  And if they’re on the inside, as long as they’re made from fabric that doesn’t show through, it shouldn’t matter what fabric I use to make them (though of course my inner type-A matchy-matchy self whispers seductively that they really should be made from the same fabric I am using for the main garment, or at the very least a coordinating fabric…but I know better!  Especially when I’m already 1/8th yard short…but we’ll get to that in a bit!).

I decided to try my hand at a maxi dress (mostly just to have at least tried one on that was long enough…for Pete’s sake, I’m only 5’7″, you would think off-the-rack dresses would be floor length with no problem!  Especially considering the models in the ads all seem to be super-tall giraffes, and the maxi dresses fit their length just fine!  Anyhow…sidebar aside, I wanted a maxi with the proper length, and I decided I’d just have to do it myself.)

I found a pattern from Kwik Sew (3856, if you’re wondering).  I have to remind myself to try and look past the fabric/styling on the envelope, because if I judged this dress solely by the, I don’t know, poker salad? print, I’d have never bought the pattern.  Thankfully, the line drawing is much more enticing and less…disturbing.  See what I mean?


I had some fabric I bought on super sale at Crafty Planet (totally worth checking out the clearance closet in the way way back!) that had a nice big print that I thought would scale nicely on a maxi.  Of course, there’s always a catch.  I had originally bought the fabric to make a different dress (knee length, never got around to it), so I was about an 1/8th of a yard short.  I had thought maybe I could finagle it and make it work, but in the end it was about 3 inches too short even with my grade-A layout skillz.  Ah, well.  The fabric has a nice blue/brown color scheme, so I figured it would be pretty easy to lengthen with a coordinating border and called it good.

This pattern has a surplice neckline, kimono sleeves, and a pretty generous A-line skirt.  It looks really easy, and it really is as easy as it looks!  I cut it out and had the bodice put together in under an hour (this, for me, is record fast!).  And I was sitting there, about to zigzag my seam edges, when I thought, you know, what if I just tried the bias thing?  What harm could it do?  How long could it take?

I was sewing over at a friend’s place, and she agreed, I’d be foolish not to!  So I found a scrap and used Colette’s amazing continuous bias tape tutorial for the bazillionth time and soon had almost two feet of bias tape.  (Take a minute, remember I’m making a maxi dress…two feet is a drop in the proverbial bucket).  It was just enough to do the shoulders and the underarm seam from the bottom of the armhole to where the bodice connects to the skirt.  Just barely enough.  And it looked SO MUCH BETTER.  So pretty.  So finished.  I was hooked.

Of course, I ended up needing a LOT more than my first paltry two feet of bias tape, so later that night, I spent about an hour making about 40 million feet of bias tape out of some yellow fabric I had in the scrap bag, and then another hour sewing it over the seams.  Not sure if there’s an easier way, but so far my scheme has been to sew it down right side (tape) to wrong side (seam), then fold it over and tuck the fold under the edge so that all the raw edges are wrapped up in a nice tidy bundle!!

It took a while to do all the seams, but it was soooooo worth it!

I still have to hem the bottom, and thread the elastic through the casing at the waist, and I probably could have sewn the whole thing together in an afternoon if I’d zigzagged instead of doing the bias binding, but I’m OK with that!  I did end up having to lengthen it (as you can see above!), but I’ll talk about that next time, too!