Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Raging Animal Inside Me

Continuing my love affair with the Chitown Chinos Skirts and Shorts, I made myself this little number during the week.  Stay tuned to find out how little it cost!

I've never owned anything in an animal print and I've always thought of them as sleazy or ridiculous.  Especially animal print tops.

But lately, when I'm looking at fabric, prints like this keep jumping out at me.  On a trip to JoAnn, I ventured into the clearance section.  For this I deserve a medal.  They've changed the way they lay out the clearance section and instead of lining up the bolts beside each other, like they do with the rest of their fabric, they stack them 10 high on a table.  You can barely get a glimpse of most of them , let alone touch them to see if they are something you might want to pursue.

And it seems I always walk in there with an armload of things so I can't even just look around, I have to put my pile down so I can move through the bolts.  It takes a lot of effort.

I had no patience, so I quickly scanned what I could see, the same bolts they've had on clearance for well over a year, and then my eyes fell upon this.  I didn't have to work too hard to wrestle it from the pile and discovered that it has a slight stretch.  It's probably all polyester, which I am not a fan of, but it didn't feel like it when I was looking it over.

I've made a few of these skirts, and since I like them pretty much 8-9 inches from the bottom of the zipper, I figured I could get away with just half a yard.

This is why a half yard of 44" fabric works for me.  I'm 5'2", I make the size 8 and these are the only pieces that I make out of the main fabric.  On this one, I didn't do any rear pockets (although I had planned to do the amazing welt pockets and didn't have enough, so I'd go with maybe 3/4 yard next time) and I didn't put any belt loops.  Also, all of the inner fabrics are lightweight cotton to reduce bulk, use my stash and keep from having to spend a fortune on that main fabric.

If you are bigger than an 8 (remember, an 8 in this pattern is nothing like an 8 in ready to wear.  I'm usually a 2 or 4 in ready to wear), or if you want your skirt longer than 8 inches from the bottom of the zipper, or if you want rear pockets or belt loops, you couldn't get away with this.

As it was, the fabric was cockeyed, imagine that coming a fine store such as JoAnn, so I barely made it.  Also, the stretch on this thankfully went the right way or it would never have worked.

I won't show you the inside because they aren't quite the pretty guts of many of my other skirts and shorts.  I chose an off white sort of fabric that looks very industrial and bland and my bobbin thread was dark brown, so you can see all of the lines and it's pretty ugly inside :)

I got a kick out of using a red zipper, since that was what I had on hand.  You can't see the zipper when it's on, so it's definitely a fun little secret.

After I made it, I realized I really don't have a top that will go with it.  I would wear an off white or some kind of brown.  This is the only brown top I have and it's definitely longer than I would normally wear with this kind of skirt because the nature of the pockets makes the hips puff out under the shirt.  Strangely, I spent a lot of my day with my hands in my pockets, something I can't say I've ever noticed myself doing before.

As with a pretty blue and white version I made of this over the summer, the stretch of this fabric is surprising and I almost wish I had gone down a size or at least graded at the waist.  It's a little looser than most of my others.

With the 5 or so skirts I've made of this pattern (and I really wear all of them!) I've had the best success with fabric that doesn't stretch.  I have one in a heavy twill that I thought was going to bind me like a mummy but it's actually fantastic.  These stretchy fabrics that have the little 5% lycra or spandex end up moving around a lot as the day goes on.

Alina really has a fabulous pattern here and I'm not sure I'll ever make a skirt out of any other pattern for the rest of my days!

And, are you ready?  I paid $4 for that fabric.  I used a button I had in my stash that came from who knows where- doesn't everyone have a jar of random buttons that could possibly be centuries old?  I used a zipper I got at a thrift store one day when I hit the jackpot and bought several zippers for 50 cents each.  And all of my inner fabric was from my stash.  As was my thread.  So, because the only thing I deliberately bought for this skirt was the leopard print fabric, I'll stick with it only cost me $4.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Getting Everything Squared Away

Many moons ago, I bought this flowy, gauzy top and I've worn it to death.

I love the color and the embroidery detail and I think I've owned it for well over 15 years, so I know it's not going to last forever.  To me, the style is timeless and screams warm weather.  It's cool, flowy and very forgiving.

And it has a square neck, which I've been complemented on many times over the years. 

Every so often, I think I need to find a pattern and make some shirts like this because one day, this will really fall apart and then I'll have nothing like it.

Much easier said than done.  I've looked for years and just when I think I have found a pattern, there's a little something that isn't quite right.  Usually, it's that the square neck is really close to my neck, which I don't like.

I've discovered that one of our thrift stores nearby has a little sewing area and I've hit the jackpot on zippers, thread and even some bias tape that I thought I'd never use but I've found two uses for recently.  All for pennies.

When I saw this girls' pattern for the exact shirt I wanted, I figured 50 cents was a fine price to pay for a pattern that would guide me in the right direction.  The first shirt in the second row is exactly what I was looking for. 

I'm small, and sometimes I could swear I could fit in a girls 14 or 16, but the boobolas usually get in the way.  Even though this patter is flowy, I thought it would be too tight across the chest, so I went about making alterations.

The pattern pieces had been cut to a 14, and the neck looked kind of small, so I took it upon myself to make up some adjustments that I would probably need to make to be able to have a wearable top.

I spent an entire morning drawing, cutting, trying, and when I put it all together, it was way too big.  Because I have no idea what I'm doing.  I looked at the original pieces again and decided that maybe a 16 would actually have fit, so I redrew my drawings to be what a 16 would most likely have been, based on the way the grading went from the smallest size up to 14.

Still convinced my boobolas were going to pose a problem, I added a little extra fabric across the body and cut the seam allowance down to 3/8 instead of 5/8.

First lesson:  I can cut that extra amount off the back pattern piece or change the seam allowance, for sure. 

Second lesson:  apparently in Simplicity, I could actually fit into a girls 16 without alterations because this is all slight bit looser than I need.  There's a fine line between comfortable and baggy.   This is a double gauze fabric so it's soft and flowy, but it has more structure than the thin gauze of the original shirt, so it doesn't cling the way the blue on does.

Also, it wrinkles like crazy, but I'm ok with that.

This green turned out to be a huge disappointment.  I thought it was going to be awesome but it's kind of dull.  I really needed something to add interest.

I don't have a super fancy sewing machine, but I do have some stitches that can be sort of fancy, so I chose a lighter green thread and this nifty stitch and went around the yoke, the sleeve tops and edges and the hem.

It's not the fabulous embroidery of the original but it gives it interest.  Actually, on the hem, I just did a thin hem, no fancy stitch.

I loved wearing it so much that I'm on a quest to make a few more.  For the next one, I can't decide if I want to use my adjusted pieces and go with a 5/8 seam allowance or if I want to go with my adjustment to a 16 but take out that extra amount I added on the front and back.

Decisions, decisions.

Also, this skirt is the Chitown Chinos Skirt from Alina Design Co. which is just about the best skirt and shorts pattern I've ever laid eyes on.

Ok, it's the only skirt and shorts pattern I've ever used, but it's amazing!

And, I'm proud to say, this entire top did not have one silly little sewing blunder as almost all of my sewing adventures have had lately!  It was super fast to put together once I figured out what pattern pieces to use.

Be prepared for a peasant top overload!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Free Motion Quilting Success

You've seen in my many posts about quilting that I'm a one trick pony when it comes to my sewing machine and quilting.

But after a trip to a Bernina dealer, this pony has learned a new trick!  I free motion quilted the most recent quilt I made for a friend's little boy.  The quilt was supposed to be an awesome tumbleweed pattern but there was something really bizarre in the layout, so the tumbleweeds lost some of their points.

Free motion quilting is a technique that allows you to sew in any direction you want.  The fabric doesn't just have to move forward.  This is what allows the random pattern you see.  For years, I thought my machine wouldn't do it properly because I thought I had an issue with my presser foot but the dealer assured me it works just like it's supposed to and after completing this, I agree!

The contrast to the red, orange and yellow is a print with whales on it, but I really didn't choose a good pattern because the whales are bigger than the blades of the tumbleweeds, so you can't really see them.  The blue was to mimic the ocean, but now that it's together, it's not at all how I envisioned.

I don't make baby quilts in soft colors since so many people now use them for tummy time instead of sleeping, so I love to use bright colors.

THis is one of the better blocks, where the points all pretty much came together in the center, but you'll notice that the sea creatures blades lost all of their points.  Since it happened in every block, I"m pretty sure it's the pattern, not me.

I never pre-wash quilts, but this one had a peculiar smell and there was this little disaster that I needed to fix:
Somehow, in my super neat sewing room- oh my gosh my stomach hurts from laughing so hard; we all know my sewing room is less than neat.  Anyway, in my sewing room, there must have been a piece of orange fabric on the floor that managed to stick to the back and it got caught in my free motion quilting.  I realized it when there was some weird dragging.  I cut as much as I could away and hoped that in the wash, the fibers might fall out.  They sort of did and I was able to use tweezers to remove the rest.

I used the backing to self bind and I sewed it by hand.   I was going to do it on the machine but I didn't want it to interfere with the quilting I had done.  Plus Daisy wanted to sit on it.

Another reason I had to wash it!

Since this baby's name is an easy one to write in cursive, I thought I'd try "writing" it at the bottom.

Here you can see the front and back on the bottom border.  I wrote it 5 or 6 times across.

I free motion quilted one other time but I didn't like how stiff it came out.  This one came out just as I wanted and after washing, it had a little puckering, which I liked.  It took less time than  my wavy technique and definitely way less fighting with the machine.

I didn't roll this at all.  I pin basted and then used the stuffing method where I would organize a spot and push it through, leave the needle down and organize some more, etc.

Overall this was a great experience and I have two others waiting in the wings.

Linking here:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Purple Potato People

I'm a fan of purple potatoes.  Not because I think they taste different, because I think all potatoes taste the same because my palate isn't refined enough for potato detection perfection, but because I think they are neat.

For the past few years, I've grown potatoes and I've learned that they pretty much will grow anywhere, under any circumstances and they leave behind microscopic seeds that grow even years after you are sure you've removed them from the area.

My foray into growing potatoes came from some potatoes that had sprouted eyes and were in edible, so I threw them into the ground and grew potatoes.  They say you can't do that with commercial potatoes because they put a chemical that keeps the potatoes from growing eyes, but I usually get organic potatoes so I was pretty sure they'd grow.  And they did.  Because I'm a rule breaker in the gardening and the more I don't follow the rules, the better things grow.

This week, I got it in my head that I wanted to use this laundry basket as another potato growing area.

I've seen cages made of hardware cloth and and hay with soil stacked up.  This basket seemed like it would do the same thing and I wouldn't have to make anything.  It's deeper than it looks, so I can keep layering.

I didn't have any potatoes on hand, so I went to the ag store and found this!

Organic purple potatoes from the US!  Although the price tag says Netherlands, but the box definitely says US.  It was the last box of purple potatoes, so I grabbed it.  I hadn't planned on purple, anything would have been fine, but I was really pleased to find them.

It came with 6 and since they had started sprouting, I was able to cut those into about 15.  I threw them all in, added some soil and away we go!  I didn't fill it, so I will be able to mound up a few times as they start to grow.

I can't wait to see how these go!