Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

Category Archives: Personal Projects

Unintentionally Going Underground

Umm…hi!

I honestly did not mean to take such a long break (a full year!) from blogging – where did 2015 go??

For the first few months of the year, I was finishing up the second half of the season at The Dallas Opera and the long commute across town eats about 3 hours each day. So, needless to say, blogging at the end of a day didn’t hold much appeal.

When the opera season wrapped up at the end of April, I unexpectedly found the motivation to do a bunch of sewing for myself – I was whipping up a lot of things I had been wanting to make myself and didn’t want to risk losing enthusiasm by stopping to blog. (I did Instagram most of it though so I have a few crummy selfies & construction shots.)

2015-Makes

(as usual, click to enlarge)

My husband and I were also slowly working our way through a home office makeover on the weekends from the middle of February to the end of May. So the computer wasn’t properly set up at times during the DIY mess.

Home-Office-Makeover

We now have a large standing desk instead of two separate desks on opposite sides of the room.

And then the phone rang with a job offer and I was driving over to Louisiana on Memorial Day to work on a TV series filming in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana

I was promised a week of work. I packed for a month.

Television shooting schedules are a bit insane. I worked at least 12 hours a day and even worked one 18-hour day in the costume shop at the production office. (So glad I wasn’t working on set in the humid Louisiana summer heat!)

It was the middle of week 5 before I found myself driving home. I’ve worked in the film world long enough to know that once someone puts you to work and you don’t fail spectacularly, they will try to keep you as long as possible.

The day after I got home, a collarless pug showed up at my door. Luckily, I was able to track down the owner by the next afternoon thanks to DFW Pug Rescue. (If she had been chipped, it would have been easier – please have your pets micro-chipped!)

Wensley&VisitingPug

Wensley wasn’t pleased to have a visitor but he tolerated her.

I think I spent about a week just staring at the wall after everything got back to normal.

And a couple weeks later, I found myself going back to Baton Rouge. Good thing I hadn’t bothered to unpack my sewing machine from the first trip!

I only let them have me 2 weeks, and then I came home again.

I had about a month before the new opera season started, so I tried to finish up a bedroom makeover I had started between Louisiana trips.

Bedroom-Makeover

I recently made myself a new wool coat during daily breaks at the opera. And I even managed to get photos! I’ve been working on a blog post about the coat, but I decided to briefly put it aside because I found a TV promo of the show I worked on in Louisiana.

So here’s the first tiny (and I mean tiny) peek at a ball gown I miraculously cranked out in only 6 days, at about the 0:27 mark. You mostly just see the petticoat someone else made.

UPDATE 6/4/16: The original teaser I linked to disappeared, but I found a full length trailer instead. The ball gown is now at about the 1:48 mark:

Underground premieres March 9, 2016 on WGN for those of you who are interested in watching it.

Aside from a couple other projects that I’ll be able to talk more about in the coming months, that pretty much sums up my 2015.

I promise my next blog post will not be a year away!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Advertisements

Three New Pairs of Pants…Tri-sers?

So over the course of a week, I made myself three pairs of skinny pants.

Way back in… APRIL!

(I am so far behind in blogging!)

Skinny-Pants

Three pairs of skinny pants. Same pattern, different fabrics.

I needed some more work pants for my part-time job at the fabric store and I decided I’d make some because 1) I hate pants shopping and 2) pants are easy to sew once you have a well-fitting pattern.

I’ve never really bothered to draft myself a custom pants sloper because I’ve always been able to find jeans that fit me if I search long enough in stores.

My biggest problem with ready-to-wear (RTW) trousers is the fit of the waistband. Most waistbands seem to be cut like funnels – hips and crotch curve might be perfect but the back waistband majorly gaps on me. (I have, however, found a couple of brands and specific style numbers in those brands that actually fit well, even in the waistband.)

So I pulled out Butterick pattern 5682, traced it in my size according to the size chart, and then compared it to two pairs (different brands) of store-bought skinny jeans that fit me really well.

Comparing-Ready-Made-with-Sewing-Pattern

I turned my RTW jeans inside-out and put one leg inside the other for easier comparison to the paper pattern.

I don’t remember all the exact changes I made, but the main differences between the RTW and paper pattern were the leg width, the height of the waistband (especially in the front), the back pocket size, and the crotch curve.

I needed to trim down the crotch curve – more noticeably at center back than front. If you can get the crotch curve right, that’s half the battle for fitting a pair of trousers!

Altered-Paper-Pattern

Pattern altered based on my store-bought jeans.

The pattern only included one pocket size, which meant that it was proportionally wrong for most of the sizes in the envelope. Proper pocket proportion and placement is important! (Afterall, you don’t want “gateway mom jeans” because of “dinosauric pockets”.)

So I reduced the pocket size to match my RTW skinnies and referred to the factory placement when making my own.

Pocket-Pattern-Alteration

New cutting and stitching lines drawn on pocket pattern piece.

With my pattern corrected well enough on paper, I pulled out some black metallic stretch denim I had. There was enough yardage to re-cut if I needed any major alterations, but I was fairly certain the fit would be close enough to the RTW jeans I like.

Black-Metallic-Stretch-Denim

This denim is super sparkly and is a solid silver on the back. I actually considered making them with the silver side for a while.

I decided to use some fun cotton fabric to line the front pockets. No one will ever see it but I know it’s there! =)

Pink-Panther-Pocket-Lining

The Pink Panther in my pockets! (I’ll be blogging another outfit with this fabric later.)

After a quick assembly and matching the details on my RTW pairs, I had a pretty good first pair.

Backview-in-Mirror

The initial look at the backside in the mirror revealed I needed to drop the waistband a little at center back, which I did after this photo was taken.

I ended up adding half an inch to the hem length on the pattern but the black pair is just long enough. I also curved the waistband a little more to prevent my next pairs from having the slight gap at center back that the black pair has.

Knowing that I never tuck my shirts in, especially when wearing skinny pants, I called the metallic black pair “good enough”…

Black-Skinny-Jeans

…and moved on to a second pair – this time in a floral print stretch jacquard:

Floral-Animal-Jacquard-Fabric

Floral print stretch jacquard fabric. I like the shiny yet subtle animal print weave of this jacquard, which is more noticeable on the back.

I carefully cut the fabric so the stripey-ness of the floral print would match across the legs and then broke up the print on my tush with intentionally unmatched pockets – something that will hardly ever be seen because of that untucked shirt thing, but still.

Back-Pockets

Intentionally unmatched back pockets.

Floral-Print-Skinny-Pants

Level print placement across both legs. And the surprise print matching on the inseam’s purple flower!

I still had one 3-inch metal fly zipper left, so I decided to make a third pair of skinny pants out of some textured stretch jacquard. (I love love love this fabric! You will be seeing it again because I bought it in 4 different colors.)

Stretch-Jacquard-Fabric

Teal stretch jacquard for skinny pants number three!

I didn’t do anything fun for the pockets on my floral print pants because the pants themselves where fun enough. I decided the teal pants needed interesting pockets though.

I had three good options in my cotton print stash – Tube map, tiny turtles, and bigger happy turtles. So I turned to Instagram/Twitter for a vote.

Turtle-Print-Pockets

Tiny turtles won the vote, so in my pockets they went!

My first try-on and I think I finally got the waistband curve exactly right! Third time’s a charm and all that. This pair of pants is definitely the most comfortable.

Mirror-Shot-of-Teal-Pants

Not-so-great mirror-selfie before I put a button on (the waistband is just pinned closed in this photo).

I did more topstitching detail on my teal pants than I did on the other two pairs. I also cut them out one layer of fabric at a time in order to keep the textured design evenly horizontal across each piece – typical making-things-overly-complicated-just-because-I-can mode of operation.

Topstitching-Detail

You can’t really see it because of the textured nature of the fabric, but I like how finished the topstitching makes them look. And see! horizontal texture matching across the inseam! No one will notice, but it makes me happy.

Here’s a back view of the finished teal pants. (After all the picture sorting and editing, I’m reeeally tired of looking at my butt!)

Back-of-Teal-Pants

This photo confirms what I suspected after wearing them a few times, I need to take a little out of the back yoke curve (see the weird wrinkle just under the waistband on the right?). Thankfully, that whole untucked shirt thing means no one will really see this, except in this photo.

Pair number four will be perfect – if I ever decide I need to make myself another! I went ahead and corrected the pattern just in case.

Teal-Jacquard-Skinny-Pants

Sneak peek of a button-up top I made soon after the pants.

I chose to mimic the look of the buttonholes on my RTW jeans. I made the loop by tracing around the shank of the jeans tack button and bringing it to a point. I used some embroidery/cross-stitch thread and just zig-zag stitched over it following the line I drew.

Faking-A-Jeans-Buttonhole

Faking a RTW jeans buttonhole without using a buttonhole setting on my machine.

I’ve been wearing all three pairs of skinny pants a lot for my retail job at the fabric store. The metallic black pair is a little too warm in the summer (all that metal retains body-heat and reflects it back) but it’s a nice basic without being boring because of the sparkle. The floral pair is just plain fun & trendy. And the teal pair is super comfortable and probably my favorite.

Skinny-Pants-without-Heels

While the skinny pants look great with heels, let’s face it, this is how I wear all of them most of the time. (Yes, yes, I do have 3 pairs of the same shoes in different colors.)

So anyway, I made some pants. Trousers. Whatever.

And it took me so long to blog them, that it seems everyone else in the online sewing community has now made and blogged their own in the meantime! Ahead, but behind all at the same time.

Happy Towel Day!

And Happy Geek Pride Day!

Today I’m spending the afternoon working at the little local fabric store and wearing my newly made Star Trek comic print skirt.

Star-Trek-TOS-Print-Skirt

I didn’t use a pattern for my skirt. It’s just a basic petticoat-style skirt with an elastic waistband, which I made with rectangles of fabric. (More details in a minute.)

Star-Trek-TOS-Print-Skirt-Back

I still have plans to remake a better fitting knit Dandelion top a la TOS style, but I haven’t gotten to that point in my sewing queue.

So I’m just wearing an old store-bought polo I’ve had in my closet for years with my new skirt. The polo’s a bit too long for the skirt, but it’ll do for now.

Elastic-Waist-Gathered-Skirt

I’ve had this fabric for months knowing I wanted a geeky skirt out of it. I was even able to print-match across the seams without losing too many inches!

Print-Matching

What seam? =)

Here’s a simplified how-to diagram to explain making the elastic-waistband skirt (detailed instructions following):

Sketch-How-to-Make-Simple-Skirt

Mine finished about 19½-inches long (knee-length worn a couple inches below waist) using the following measurements & steps:

  • Cut one 6½-inch tall strip for yoke and three 17-inch tall strips all the width of fabric (mine was 44 inches wide).
  • Sew shorter yoke strip together for center back seam, creating a loop with the fabric.
  • Sew three longer strips together end-to-end (match print if desired and able), creating a loop about 3-times the diameter of the yoke.
  • Hem longer loop with a double-fold – ⅜-inch fold then another ⅜-inch.
  • Fold top of yoke down ¼-inch then another 1¾-inch for 1½ -inch elastic casing. Stitch down leaving opening at center back for elastic.
  • Mark the four quarter points of each loop of fabric on unfinished edges (top of larger and bottom of smaller yoke loop).
  • Gather larger loop and attach to yoke bottom edge with ½-inch seam allowance, matching 4 previously marked points.
  • Insert elastic cut at comfortable length to fit just below waist. Overlap and stitch ends of elastic and stitch casing closed. Evenly distribute fullness around waistband.
  • Stitch in the ditch through elastic at center back and through the elastic in 2 or 3 other places on the waistband to hold it in place.

Here are a couple of sewing tricks I like to use:

Hem-Pressing

Machine stitch a guideline for pressing up an even hem.

Elastic-Waistband-Casing

Edge-stitch right at the outer fold of elastic casing to help keep elastic from rolling in casing.

This skirt works really well with a petticoat underneath so I pulled out my ‘50s style petticoat (it’s an XL kid’s size so it’s shorter than the period appropriate length).

TOS-Skirt-with-Petticoat

My husband hates the petticoat look but I love it!

Without&With-Petticoat

Without petticoat (L) and with petticoat (R).

Fluffy…

girly…

fun!

It required spinning.

Spinning

We will see how many fabric store customers notice my geekiness at work today or even know what today is. By the way, I always keep a towel in my car – but my dog gets more use out of it than I do.

Speaking of the dog, you might be wondering “where’s Wensley?” because he usually likes to photo bomb. Believe me, he tried but there was a door in his way this time:

Wheres-Wensley

And I leave you with this silly picture, because I still like the skirt best with the petticoat underneath:

Silly

One to beam out. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Piqué Cambie Dress

I’m still alive* and sewing, I promise!

Most recently (aka last week), I made myself a Sewaholic Cambie Dress.

I know that anyone who has read sewing blogs for the past few years has probably seen one or fifty versions of this dress. Honestly, I’ve seen so many – and while I’ve always liked them – I just sort of filed the information away thinking that maybe someday I’d try the pattern for myself.

Well, that “someday” finally came and I ordered a couple of patterns from Sewaholic Patterns to see how they fit my body. Here’s my Cambie:

Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-ViewA

I made it in a brightly colored large-weave cotton with 2% spandex piqué fabric. I love textured fabrics, especially when they are a solid color!

Large-Weave-Pique-Fabric

Piqué fabric closeup.

The color of this fabric is incredibly hard to photograph! It really messes with the white balance on cameras. I’ve discovered that digital cameras want to read anything with a mix of green and blue as bright turquoise with all the green removed. (Must be that whole Orion slave girl makeup issue on film.) The fabric is definitely green but it has a drop of blue in it – a color somewhere in the zomp and Persian green range in this article about the color spring green on Wikipedia.

Anyway, I think I’ve come pretty close to color-correcting these photos to match real life.

Green-Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-Back&Side

Oops! I blinked.

I made a mockup of only the bodice to check the fit. (I knew both skirt options would fit just fine without adjustments.)

Cambie-Bodice-Mockup

Bodice mockup.

The only changes I made to the pattern were so minimal they’re almost not worth mentioning. I scooped out the underarm a little (it was awfully high and straight), smoothed the neckline curves slightly, and shortened the front shoulder straps by a full inch (apparently a commonly needed alteration for this pattern), as you can see in the mockup photo above.

I also decided to make a neckline facing instead of fully lining the dress. I chose to do this because my fabric was rather thick & didn’t need one, and I didn’t want to lose the comfort of its slight stretch.

Neck-Facing

Neckline facing.

Speaking of hard to photograph colors, this fabric is also hard to color-match with thread! I never did find a perfect match. Good thing there’s no topstitching needed with this design! I ended up using emerald green (too green!) thread on my serger and a teal (too blue!) thread to stitch everything together.

Inside-of-Dress

Inside of dress. Seams serged and facing understitched. I may eventually hand-stitch the waistband seams together in the middle.

I made View A with the A-line skirt. I really like the full gathered skirt version too and will probably make one in View B at some point.

Green-Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-Front

All the above photos show how I wore my new dress to church on Sunday. I went with neutral wedges and a simple necklace to make it all about the dress the first time. But I know I’m going to have lots of fun pairing it with other accessories later!

Accessories

I particularly like it with the yellow shoes and narrow belt:

Cambie-Dress-with-Yellow-Shoes-and-Belt

In the end, I was surprised how dressy this fabric actually is. (I probably shouldn’t be, considering piqué has long been associated with white tie.) I’ve always thought of piqué as somewhat casual because it’s cotton and usually used for summer dresses. But this larger weave has a shimmer to it as the light hits the texture.

You may have noticed that Wensley likes to photo bomb my blog pictures. So to conclude, here’s a goofy shot of me imitating him jumping at the back door during the shoot:

Wensley-Jumping-at-Back-Door

* After a bunch of costuming jobs, I came back to find that WordPress had messed with some of the settings for inserting photographs, making their newest “upgrade” more of a downgrade. Incredibly frustrating and un-motivating when it comes to blogging! So while I waited for them to get their act straightened out, I spent my time sewing a lot of things for myself. And now I have a backlog of things to blog.

Build Your Own Ironing Table

It has been far too long since I’ve had a chance to sit down and blog! That doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing – just more work sewing than fun sewing.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve seen little bits of what I’ve been up to since I tend to update daily. And you don’t need an account to view what I post there.

At the beginning of January, I decided my sewing room needed a major cleaning/reorganizing. I spent a couple of weeks rearranging the furniture in my sewing room and adding a few new pieces. I think it will really be more efficient in the long run. (More on that to come in a later post.)

I got about 90% finished with the reorg and then I started getting back-to-back jobs and the last 10% has been taking the longest to finish.

But before I got work-busy, I did manage to build myself a new ironing table! Yes, table! No more wimpy ironing board for me! You might recall that I’ve been using the square end of my ironing board and ignoring the pointed end for years.

I’ve always loved the large tables set up in costume shops where I’ve worked (there are usually multiple irons sharing one large surface). It was high time I had my own personal table at home!

My new ironing table!

And because I know all of you who sew will want one for yourself, I took lots of photos so you can make one too. =)

I started with a NORDEN sideboard from IKEA:

NORDEN-sideboard-from-IKEAI’m not sure how long IKEA’s carried this, but I just noticed it recently. It was exactly the size/height I’ve been looking for to use as an ironing table base, and it is solid wood. Plus, it even had the bonus of drawers and shelves!

So for $149.00, I had the perfect table base and I didn’t have to engineer anything from scratch. (I still find it amusing that the least expensive large piece of furniture in my sewing room is the cutting table!)

The dimensions of the NORDEN sideboard are 47½” long x 16½” wide x 35⅜” tall. The height was perfect but the top surface was a little small. I needed something that wasn’t too big and would fit along the wall where I already had my ironing board without blocking the closet door.

First, I constructed the sideboard table exactly as the IKEA comic book instructed because I had come up with my own simple plan to make the surface bigger without having to alter the original design.

I wanted a surface area that was significantly larger than my ironing board, which measures 13½” wide x 53” long (to the narrow pointed end). I decided 60” long would be a decent size to fit my space while still being long enough to iron fabric yardage in one pass from selvage to selvage.

I also determined that 19” wide would not take up too much space in my room – I had to be careful not to make my sewing room feel crowded with the other furniture rearranging.

Norden sideboard assembled and placement determined in my sewing room.

Then, my husband and I went shopping to buy some supplies at the home improvement store:

  • 1 piece of 19” x 60” plywood ¾” thick (we bought a full 4’ x 8’ sheet but had the store cut it to size)
  • 2 square dowels 1” x 36” each
  • 10 flat headed Phillips machine screws size #6 – 32 x 2 in
  • 10 nuts to fit the #6 machine screws (ours came in packs with the screws)
  • 10 flat washers size #6

Plywood rectangle cut to finished size, two square dowels, and hardware.

We already had these but you will also need:

  • Drill
  • 1 wood drill-bit 5/32”
  • Measuring tape or yardstick
  • Staple gun & ½” staples
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable crescent wrench or socket wrench (to fit nuts)
  • Nail setter or a piece of flat metal you can hammer to completely set the staples
  • Any kind of (power or hand) saw that can cut 1’ square dowels
  • Gloves (recommended for handling the plywood)
  • Safety glasses/goggles

We cut each square dowel into 3 pieces measuring 3”, 14.5”, and 18.5”. The small 3” pieces were a good size to keep the dowels from blocking the drawers on the front of the sideboard. Exact size is not important as long as you are able to frame each corner of the existing tabletop with the dowels.

We turned the IKEA unit upside down, placed it on the plywood top, and marked it so the base would be centered on the plywood lengthwise. (Note: make sure you remove the adjustable shelf before turning table upside down!) We offset the sideboard table a little closer to the front edge so that the dowel would be flush with the edge of the plywood (thus, prettier and easier to cover).

Then we put some extra plywood scrap on the floor underneath everything. This was so we could drill all the way through the plywood top without worrying about drilling into the carpet beneath.

A spare piece of ¾” plywood protected the carpet from the drill nicely.

Starting with the two small front dowels, we butted them up to the edge of the sideboard and drilled one hole all the way through the dowel and the first layer of plywood that would be the new top.

Then we unstacked everything and put bolts through from the top (the part that was facing the floor while drilling) and attached them with washers and nuts on the dowels on the bottom.

After that, we did the same with one dowel on one side – drilling one hole on each end because this piece of dowel was longer.

We continued drilling, unstacking, and attaching one dowel at a time so we could make sure everything fit perfectly and would be tight around the sideboard.

Last dowel drilled!

Finally, we had the dowel frame all attached. It didn’t matter that the bolt heads weren’t perfectly flush with the top surface because I knew the padding I would be putting over everything would smooth any height difference out. As long as the dowels were secure on the plywood, it was perfect.

Dowel frame completely attached.

I initially had plans to secure the plywood top to the IKEA sideboard after covering it with appropriate ironing fabric, but it ended up fitting so snuggly we didn’t need to. For once, one of my crazy IKEA hacks actually turned out to be less complicated than originally planned! Win!

My NORDEN has a bigger top!

Here’s a size comparison of my new ironing table to my old ironing board.

You may have noticed I was able to move my fabric tubes from under my cutting table to under my new ironing table. This was perfect because with my new furniture arrangement, the tubes were a little more in the way under the cutting table.

Next came the hard part: waiting for specialty fabric to come in the mail so I could cover the plywood top.

The best ironing tables in costume shops are covered in a drapery interlining fabric called English bump cloth. I read somewhere (apparently I failed to save the link) that it was first used as a curtain interlining for British royalty in order to better insulate palaces from the cold and damp.

Bump cloth is a thick, somewhat flannel-like fabric that adds body and structure to fancy drapes.

English bump cloth fabric.

I found some at Fabric.com in my first search and placed an order. Even though the website said there was around 40 yards in stock at the time, I received an email a couple days later saying they were sold out. Grrr. (I have had such rotten luck with Fabric.com completely filling my last few orders!) If you feel like taking a chance with them, here’s the link for their Hanes Drapery Interlining Bump Cloth listed as item #UK-528.

Once I learned I wouldn’t be receiving my first order of bump cloth, I started looking elsewhere. I eventually found some at BuyFabrics.com and it was less expensive than Fabric.com’s! I quickly ordered 2 yards (I was planning to use two layers to cover my plywood top) and they shipped within 24 hours! Here’s their link for English Classic Bump Natural Interlining.

While I waited for my bump cloth, I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased 2 yards of aluminum coated ironing board fabric in their utility fabric section. (You can also buy it on their website.) I knew I wanted another silver ironing surface like I had on my ironing board before because it looks better for longer. Most costume shops cover their ironing tables in muslin, but leakage from irons stains muslin.

Ick! stained muslin on a costume shop ironing table. My silver cover never stained so visibly in all the years I had it despite an occasional iron pee.

As of yesterday, Fabrique! (the little fabric store where I work part-time) also started carrying silver ironing board fabric! You can order it from the website as well. From what I can tell, this fabric might have a slightly heavier muslin backing for the aluminum than what JoAnn sells. Too bad I wasn’t able to buy it from work when I needed some!

Finally, my bump cloth arrived and I could finish my ironing table!

The following steps can be used to cover any wooden table surface to create an ironing table if you already have a piece of furniture and don’t want to buy a NORDEN sideboard.

I cut two strips of bump cloth slightly wider and longer than the plywood top and laid them pebbled side down (slightly ribbed/striped side up) on a paper covered work space on the floor. Then I placed my plywood tabletop on top of the fabric.

Then I folded and stapled both layers of the bump cloth (at the same time) to the plywood, starting with one long side and then attaching the opposite side to make sure it was tight. The handle end of a metal nail setter allowed me to hammer staples all the way down along the dowel edges. After securing the long sides, I neatly folded the corners and stapled the rest into place.

I discovered, even after pulling the bump cloth tight, there was still too much slack when I rubbed the top surface. So I pushed the extra up toward the front of the tabletop while my husband held and spring clamped the excess in place.

To correct the slack, I pushed the extra fabric to the front edge and stapled it down. Then I moved the extra fold of fabric to the underside. This ended up working well because there was no dowel across the front and the little ridge of extra fabric created a nice little lip to mask the front edge of the sideboard top.

I used scraps of bump cloth to cover the nuts and screw ends so nothing could catch on them while I ironed later. Then I covered everything tightly with a layer of silver ironing board fabric stapled on through all the layers.

Once the plywood top was completely covered, we just pushed it in place on the sideboard. It fits nice and snug. If I ever need to recover it, I can just take the top off and change out the fabric that needs to be replaced. Super easy. =)

I love my new ironing table!

Bonus: I no longer need to iron yardage in steps before I roll it – I can roll as I iron! And all my ironing tools fit in one drawer while my press cloths & ironing products (aside from interfacing) all fit in the other drawer. I chose to hook my sleeve board over the right edge of the tabletop because I use it often and it makes the tool drawer a bit crowded. I don’t need to leave everything on the open shelf above where it gets dusty – now I only keep spray bottles and sizing etc. on the shelf above.

Ironing and rolling fabric in one step! And everything fits in the drawers!

I just need to clean up the used gravity-feed industrial iron I bought used years ago, and I’ll have totally finished my ironing upgrade!

I hope you find the above tutorial helpful and are inspired to build your own ironing table! Send me a photo or link if you do – I’d love to see!

A Denim Spearmint

Back in October, I was a pattern tester for Lolita Patterns and got to test the pattern for the new Spearmint coat.

I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.

Technical drawings of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat.

But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)

I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:

One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)

And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.

Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.

Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)

I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.

I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.

The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.

Blue denim for the outside and fun print for the lining.

No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.

So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.

Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.

Is this back-side of the fabric great, or what?! The heathered-looking denim and contrast topstitching would add a casual vibe to the dressy coat design, making it easier to dress up or down, depending on the occasion. I couldn’t find topstitching thread in the coral color I wanted, so I used outdoor polyester thread because it’s thicker and shows better than regular thread.

I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them.  Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.

As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)

The chopped & marked up version of the first mockup. It’s really wrinkled from being carried around in a bag for a few days.

Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:

  • Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
  • Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
  • Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
  • Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.

The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.

Second mockup. Much better fit.

Side-by-side comparison of fit.
These mockup photos look like fancy lab coats, especially since I was wearing my glasses. Mockups for science!

You can really see how badly the sleeve was pulling on the first version. It was so tight it was hard to bend my arm. The sleeves also look a little short on the first compared to the second because they caught on my sweater underneath. I did not change the length of the pattern pieces.

These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).

So it was finally on to the real fabric!

Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!

I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.

My tag.

And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.

After cutting out all the other pieces, I laid out my fabric scraps until I could fit the collar pattern (being careful to cut the mirror image of the piece I already cut out). I didn’t really bother with making sure all the scraps were on grain – in any case, it was just the under collar. Then I pinned and stitched the scraps before cutting.

For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:

  • I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
  • Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
  • I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
  • For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
  • I added tons of decorative topstitching.
  • I added a coat hook loop.

Ruffle collar assembly.
Constructing the collar separately allows for easier pressing of the edge seam (tailor’s ham inserted inside in bottom left photo). I also topstitched around the outside edge before attaching the collar on the coat.

Added coat hook loop at center back where the collar joins the neck facing.
I used the selvage printing dots from my lining fabric. I love how the dots add interest and still coordinate with the lining.

Outside and lining both constructed.
Final try-on before joining the two together. The lining reminds me of a kimono with its combination of fabrics.

After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!

Finished Spearmint Coat.

And here are a few more photos of some of the details:

The fun print lining!

The pattern’s included instructions for the bound buttonhole are wonderful. I added topstitching around it to match the rest of the coat.

Because I did so much topstitching on my coat, I chose to reinforce the pockets to match. I decided to close my pockets up about 2 more inches after realizing the opening was a lot bigger than I needed it to be – thus, there are two bar tacks on the bottom. This also allows me to carry my phone in a pocket without worrying about it falling out.

Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.

You can buy the Spearmint coat pattern (#5013) from Lolita Patterns in either paper copy or instant PDF download.

The paged PDF is 64 pages, so if you get the PDF, I highly recommend using the print shop version and having a place like Staples print it on large paper for you. I love having the ability to print off small “fit to page” copies of the large print shop version before I taking it to the printer, and the copies also made handy references to overall pattern while I was working.

As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.

Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:

  1. Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
  2. In your comment, include your plans for your version  – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?

Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.

Deadline for entry is closed at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…

How ‘bout Them App-…er…Mittens!

I’ve been super busy bouncing from job to job in the last couple of months (where did November go??). I can’t believe that today is my blog’s 3rd birthday!

(Sadly, the detailed posts about the Wonder Woman cape and boots will not be happening exactly as I’d planned because my cell phone was stolen & I lost all the detailed process shots I was going to use. I’ll still be doing a post about the construction, but not nearly as detailed as I was hoping to write.)

In my time off from work, I’ve been doing some “secret sewing” (aka pattern-testing) and I can finally share one of those hush-hush projects with you now – the Disparate Disciplines Honeycrisp Mittens!

Honeycrisp Mittens

I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.

Because of the puffy nature of the fleece, I found it easiest to trace the pattern onto the fleece with a Sharpie and then pin the two fabric layers together before cutting.

I really love the longer, elbow-length version of the pattern because it has really interesting seams, but since I didn’t have enough fabric, I decided to appliqué my own interesting details with contrasting polar fleece.

Apple appliqué detail.

Yeah, so I went a little literal with it and put apples on my mittens. I blame the name of the pattern because all I wanted was a Honeycrisp apple every time I thought about them.

I had to piece one cuff in order to eke out matching cuffs.

The pattern is a really quick and easy make (especially if you don’t have to plan for eking like I did) and only took me about an hour, even with my self-inflicted complications. It would be a great beginner project, but sewists of all experience levels can have fun with it.

I used the same stretch stitch for the mittens that I used for the Avocado Hoodies.

This pattern was good at reminding me of my freakishly large hands. Everything about me is usually a small or even extra-small, except my hands. (I have skinny fingers, but BIG hands.)

I cut the main mitten body at a size medium and the thumb in XL! No wonder I have trouble finding gloves with long enough fingers!

I used the lightbox that comes free with every building to trace the larger thumb onto the correctly sized mitten palm. (I forgot I wasn’t the small when I took the picture and retraced it onto the medium.)

So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!

Wensley wanted a bite of apple so badly! He kept circling my hands while we took photos trying to figure out how to get some without getting in trouble. *Lick*

The best part of the pattern was a feature I couldn’t even test. There is the option to make the fingertips conductive! Meaning, you can use your smart phone or any touch screen without having to take them off!

As payment for being a pattern tester, Mari is sending me some conductive fabric made with real silver in it. I look forward to trying it and plan to make an elbow-length conductive pair for myself.

If you are interested in buying your own copy of the pattern, here’s the link to the PDF pattern in the Disparate Disciplines shop. (Also available as a limited-time paper pattern.)

And you can even buy the conductive fabric in heathered grey or black directly from Mari! No need to go searching everywhere for the special fabric (and just in time for Christmas).

As it is, my non-conductive wrist-length pair of Honeycrisp Mittens is perfect for walking the dog. =)

Thanks, Mari, for another fun & practical pattern!

See some other people’s Honeycrisp Mittens:

%d bloggers like this: