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…

Almost…Too Simple: Pillow cases!

I know, I know…pillow case projects are for beginners, right?  Wrong!  Experienced sewing folks also use pillows!!  And generally have bits & bobs of awesome fabric squirreled away–who better to make awesome custom pillow cases?!

We’ve been doing a bit of camping lately, what with summer and all, and decided that in lieu of bringing our nice, comfy, regular pillows on dirty muddy camping trips (because washing mud out of pillows is super fun, y’all!), we should pick up some dedicated camping pillows.  In addition to never having to wash mud out of my usual pillow again, camping pillows pack down into itty bitty pillow nuggets–perfect for travel!  (We went with the small version of therm-a-rest compressible pillows, if you’re curious.)

Given my aversion to washing pillows (though at 12″ by 18″, it’s decidedly easier to wash these than standard size pillows), I decided that pillow cases were in order.  I didn’t really follow a pattern, just winged it, but I think they turned out pretty awesome, so I’m recording what I did here so I can find it again if I need to!

The main, burning question was how big to make the case.  The pillows are 12″ x 18″ x 4″, so I knew I needed a little extra wiggle room, and I knew I wanted a contrasting cuff & band.  I also had some scraps of fabric I really wanted to use together, and with a little creativity, I was able to squeeze it all together!  And in the process I think I came up with a solid formula for pillowcase sizing!

Pillow measurements:

  • length (L) = 18″
  • width ( W) = 12″
  • height (H) = 4″

Cutting out the pieces:

  1. For the main piece: cut a rectangle measuring (L – 1) by [(W +1.5) * 2], which works out to 17″ by 27″.
  2. For the accent ribbon: cut a rectangle measuring 2″ by [(W +1.5) * 2], which works out to 2″ by 27″.  (Or use an actual 1″ wide ribbon and save some folding and pressing).
  3. For the cuff, cut a rectangle measuring 12″ by [(W +1.5) * 2], which works out to 12″ by 27″.

Once you have the pieces, fold both the accent ribbon piece and the cuff piece in half lengthwise and press.  (I was piecing fabric together for the cuffs, so I actually cut out two pieces that were 6″ by 27″ for one pillow and four pieces that were 6″ by 14″ for the other and sewed them together to make the 6″ by 27″ folded-over cuff instead.)

Assembly

  1. Lay the cuff out on the table, unfolded, right side up.  Align the accent ribbon piece (still folded) along the top edge of the cuff.  Lay the main piece right side down, aligning the top edge with the cuff/ribbon edges.  Basically you sandwich the accent ribbon between cuff and main piece (which have right sides together).
  2. Roll the main piece of fabric up from the bottom, almost all the way to the top edge.
  3. Fold the bottom edge of the cuff over the rolled up main piece and align with the top edges where everything is sandwiched together, essentially encasing the main rolled up fabric like a sausage.
  4. Sew the lined up raw edges together.  Pull the en-sausaged main fabric out of the sewed up cuff to turn the cuff right side out and expose the main fabric and accent ribbon and hide all those raw edges where they all meet.  Press well and topstitch anything you want topstitched at this point.
  5. Sew the open side and bottom seams in one L-shaped sewing extravaganza (I used french seams to enclose the raw edges, but could use pinking shears or zigzag or serge to finish instead).

There!  Nice tidy seams, and super cute cases for the new camping pillows!

It was a really quick sew (took me longer to work out how to assemble everything neatly than it did to actually cut out and sew them up!).  And I really like how they turned out!  The cases are pretty snug, so for the next make I might add 2 inches to the width instead of 1.5 to give me a little more lee-way for my french seams, but otherwise I think I did pretty well!

BFFs

Have you ever plopped down in front of your laptop in utter defeat, listlessly googling for the answer to all your problems?  Or at least the current problem of sewing this uber fiddly fabric into something with flat, non-lettuce-y seams?  No, that’s just me?

OK, well, I’m going to let you in on my little secret anyhow.  My sister-in-law has this skirt.  And it’s a really cool, double layer half circle chiffon wrap skirt (say that 10 times really fast?) in super floaty, fun fabric.  And she’s worn it to pieces.  So I took a look at it, saw it was a simple half circle skirt with a waistband that extends into really long ties, and foolishly said “I can totally remake that–just pick out fabric!”  (I’d like to tell you I’ve learned my lesson, but I’d probably be lying).  So she picked out two gorgeous fabrics and I drafted a pattern (if you can call it drafting) based on the first skirt and cut out the pieces. Easy peasy, right?

Ha! Hahahahahaha.

Then I attempted to actually sew the fabric together.  (Well, I started with the hem since approximately 110% of the skirt is hem).  And I got lettuce edges.  Holy bananas.  Even if I basted and then came back with smaller stitches–seems like smaller stitches were particularly lettuce-inducing.  And every tip I find for sewing chiffon says to use small stitches.  Or hand sewing.  Now, I’m no mathlete, but even I know that would be a LOT of hand sewing.  And I’m pretty lazy, it turns out.  So no dice.

So there I was, slumped disconsolately in front of the lappy, googling my heart out.  And that’s when I found this.  And I could tell we were soon going to be BFFs.

Spray on, wash out stabilizer.  Now, technically, I believe you’re supposed to spray it on before you cut, but, um…I looked at my skirt pieces in all their already-cut-outedness and realized that was not happening in this case.  I plowed ahead anyhow.  I laid each piece out as flat and well-aligned as possible (really, trying not to warp the bias-y bits), and lambasted it with my trusty new arsenal, then hung the pieces over my clothesline to dry and stiffen.

Kids–this stuff works.  It’s amazing!  Instead of overcasting my way into scallopy lettuce edges and letting my sewing machine eat fabric like there’s no tomorrow, I got lovely, overcast edges.  Lovely.

I will admit, it did not play nicely with my rolled hem foot (which was what I was hoping to use)–the stiff fabric just didn’t roll evenly, so I gave up on that.  The overcast method is obviously what was used on the original skirt, so after fiddling with stitch width and length and using ungodly amounts of magenta thread, I figured it out.  Mostly.  There’s a few places I may try to re-overcast (is that a thing?) before I declare it done.

But I’m really happy with the way it turned out (especially after washing the stiffening stuff out–it really does wash right out!).  And I think I’ll put a little tutorial together so that the next time my sis-in-law commissions a skirt, I don’t have to do all that pesky math again.  Because I’m pretty sure circle skirts are actually Dante’s 10th circle of hell, reserved specifically for people of average math skills.