First Fabric Purchase(s) in the New House

I suppose I should be feeling guilty after moving like 10 huge plastic bins of fabric into this house after I bought it. But nope. I can rationalize it thus:

  1. I had yet to buy anything from the esteemed ladies of Blackbird Fabrics, and I love supporting small businesses.
  2.  This was my first time visiting the new location of the Joann of my childhood, so I had to show them some love, cash-money style.

So! Photos and plans! Here we go.

Blackbird Fabrics cuts:

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I got 1 yard of this awesome swim fabric because I really do need another one-piece. I gifted my first swimsuit make to my best friend, so I must replace it. This will be a Megan Nielsen Cottesloe, view A. I was one of the testers for the pattern and I made the view A before they added the ties; I think the ties are a cute addition, so I will be making them.

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I have been lusting after rayon (viscose) twill ever since people started sewing with it all over the blogosphere, and I finally got some! In three colors! Because go big or go home. This blue cut is going to be a Sew Liberated Aida top, which will be awesome for work.

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This olive drab (“Marine green” to me) is a color that I haven’t worn much lately, but I always got compliments in the past when I wore tops in this shade, so I figured I’d go for it. This will be a Hey June Willamette, view A. Another good work shirt.

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Another color I don’t usually wear, but I know it will work with my skin/hair/eye tones. I think this will become a Hey June Biscayne. I’ve made a couple of Biscaynes – one that didn’t look right because the fabric didn’t have enough drape, and one that I hate because it’s horrid poly charmeuse in a color that looks awful on me, which had been in my stash for years.

I consider both of those muslins, though; the first was made exactly to the pattern and was too big in the upper chest (I’ve mentioned previously that I need to do a short upper bust adjustment on most tops, and I need to do a slight one on the Biscayne), and I made a TON of unnecessary adjustments for the poly charmeuse version (shortened the top in the waist, shortened the placket), which just made things worse.

This time, I will do what I should have done in the first place – I will grade out at the hips by one size, and do a 1/2″ short upper bust adjustment.

Joann Fabrics cuts:

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I used to hate the mere idea of wearing yellow, but in the last couple of years it has really started to grow on me. When I walked past the spring apparel fabrics display, this cotton double-gauze leaped out and pinched my arm, so I had to get some. I bought the amount required for a Biscayne, but I might make something else. Probably the new Hey June Lucerne, view B. Having a top in a floral fabric with petal sleeves is an awesome sewing pun. =)

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I am annoyed with Joann for classifying all of their cute printed cotton/spandex knits as “juvenile apparel” fabric. Why the heck do the kids get all the fun stuff? I don’t care – I bought this for ME, dammit! It’s going to be the awesome Hey June Union St. tee, with the v-neck. And scraps will become a pair or two of undies from my TNT Kwik Sew pattern. BTW, I am ACEING Me-Made-May; I wear something me-made everyday because at this point, all of my underwear is handmade. Winning without trying! 😉

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Another “juvenile apparel” cotton/spandex knit that I have appropriated for adult clothing purposes. I love mod-pop florals, which is funny because I don’t really like mod style in any other application. I guess I just love flowers in any form. This will be another Union St. and undies. Maybe I’ll finally get around to making some bralettes, too.

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Speaking of flowers, here are the two hibiscus bushes that I planted a month or so ago. The one on the right is, I think, a tropical hybrid rather than a hardy variety, as it suffered quite badly from low water and dropped most of its leaves right after I planted it. Meanwhile, the one on the left was happy as a clam with whatever water it happened to get. Either way, they are now thriving and covered with buds. I think I’ll try cutting the blooms off after a few days and drying them to make tea. I LOVE hibiscus teas!

Now to go print, tape, and cut some patterns.

– Julia

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Weekly Planting Update

I recently moved to a new-old house with its private lawn/yard/forest/wilderness of 4.5 acres. As the lucky recipient of green thumb genes from both sides of my family (my brother once killed a cactus, so I am pretty sure I got all of it), I have readily become obsessed with gardening. So that I wouldn’t overwhelm myself by trying to do everything all at once, I decided to dedicate this year to planting long-term growers (i.e., trees and shrubs) and sorting out where I want to put things like fencing, raised beds, and any other stuff that needs to be built.

The official move-in happened at the beginning of March, and I planted the 11 fruit trees, 2 blackberry canes, and 4 blueberry bushes I bought from the Ty Ty Nursery about a month later. Ever since, I’ve taken to doing a weekly walk-around where I check to see how everything is progressing and update my grandma (the family’s Master Gardener) on my budding (HAHA!) orchard. I figured that I’d go ahead and start putting my weekly photo record on here so that I can go back and look at it later. Maybe.

Note – I bought all of the plants/saplings from Ty Ty as bareroot plants and planted them all using a post hole digger.

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I have always loved gardenias, so I planted 3 August Beauty bushes, bought at the local Lowe’s, around my front porch. And here’s my first bloom! Eeee!

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While doing my own planting, I am also working to identify the many varieties of weeds that crop (HAHA!) up around my property. This one looks like an herb, but I have no idea what it actually is.

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I planted 3 PawPaw saplings, and this one is doing the best. One other has some tiny leaves after about a month of no progress, and the third one still looks like a stick. But since the second one waited so long to do anything, I have high hopes that the third one will eventually start putting out leaves as well.

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I planted two varieties each of plums and cherries. This is my Blue Damson, which started putting out leaves pretty soon after I stuck it in the ground.

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This is a Stanley plum. I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys put out blooms. And not just because blooms become fruit; I think plum blossoms are lovely, too.

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My Montmorency cherry had an interloper, which my camera did not want to focus on. I’m pretty sure it’s a giant leopard moth caterpillar. I saw a few of these in my backyard when I lived in Virginia Beach. This one got relocated to a patch of weeds a few yards away.

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Dollar weed is all over the damn place this time of year, and this specimen impressed me with its size (that’s what she said). Soon all of these suckers will be gone, because I just bought two bags of Scotts triple action southern variety to take out these AND all the damn ants that keep relocating every time I oust them. Little bastards.

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My two thornless Navajo blackberry canes had several flowers on them when I did my last walk-around. Now they are busily turning themselves into berries. Woohoo! Hopefully I’ll get to them before the wildlife does.

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My second cherry, a Dwarf North Star. Both cherry varieties I bought are tart – or pie – types. I’ll probably put in a couple of sweet varieties next year. These are self-pollenating, but they put out more (that’s what she said) when planted near other tart types.

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Something had been noshing on my crabapple tree. Likely another moth ‘pillar. It also got relocated, but I wasn’t able to get a very good picture of it. I also cannot remember what variety of crabapple this is; I got it specifically because crabapples are good pollenators for regular apple varieties and I have a Honeycrisp sapling nearby.

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…aaaand here it is. I like to say that I planted this so my brother will come visit, but I like Honeycrisps, too. Eventually I’ll put in a Granny Smith or another tart apple variety. What can I say – I’m a fan of fruit that bites back. =)

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Lastly, I went to check on my two pomegranates that are at the back of the yard. These guys are covered with pretty leaves, and I already love how they look. I’ve never eaten a pomegranate, although I love the juice. I’m anticipating the fun of eating the fruit once these get big enough to produce.

I didn’t take photos of my blueberry bushes because they are very leggy and unimpressive at this point. It amuses me that I had no problem making “THE CUT” on all of my baby trees (as described in “Grow a Little Fruit Tree” by Ann Ralph), but I am afraid to cut those darn blueberry bushes back because I don’t want to kill them. I really need to just do it. If I kill them, I can buy more.

As a final note – I felt so good after doing this walkthrough that I came inside and ordered myself two new orchid varieties to add to my collection. I think I have a plant problem. But really, growing things is pretty addictive, especially if you are blessed with a gift for it. =)

– Julia

Summer Smoothie Studies

It seems like every other summer or so, I get on a major smoothie-making kick. And that is just enough time between kicks to lose all of my recipes and tips, ARGH! But! Since I have a blog specifically for the purpose of stashing all of those wonderful bits of maker information that I would otherwise forget, I decided to write up a post to remind future me of what I have learned this go-round.

The One [Smoothie] Rule That Must Not Broken:

Never, ever, ever combine dairy milks with citrus!

Citrus (or any other acidic substance, such as vinegar) will curdle the milk and make it what modern cooks refer to as “buttermilk,” which is used in plenty of baking recipes but is pretty damn nasty in smoothies. It’s especially gross if you are not expecting it. You are now informed. Do not break the one smoothie rule!

Tips for Smoothie Perfection:

The golden ratio for the average countertop blender is 1c liquid to 1.5c solids. A decent blender (I use a Cuisinart 8speed that is like 12 years old. First kitchen appliance I ever bought!) can handle this like a champ, with no additional stirring or finagling.

For a thicker smoothie, particularly milk-based, I use 1c milk to 2c frozen fruit. This gives me a thick, creamy smoothie, but requires me to do a bit of blender dancing to get it all incorporated. I like to tilt the blender towards me while holding the pitcher onto the base until the blades are able to more easily move the ingredients and I can see the “funnel” appear in the middle. Then a bit of shaking or stirring (with the blender OFF!) using a long spoon, and after a bit the mixture will be smooth enough that the blender can do its thing with no more assistance.

A decent blender needs the liquid added to the pitcher first, so that the blades are able to move smoothly and process the solids effectively. If you add the solids first, the blades will just stir things around or get stuck. This is obviously not relevant if you have a commercial-grade blender, so if your kitchen is pimped then do whatever works.

DO NOT USE ICE. Ice is water, therefore adding it to smoothies will make them watery. Basic science. Freeze your fruit, even if you bought it fresh. Not only is frozen fruit just as healthy as fresh fruit, it creates a cold, thick smoothie without making it watery. It’s also fine to mix frozen and fresh fruit, but at least 1c of the fruit should be frozen so that the smoothie is actually smoothie-ish.

For extra creamy consistency, add in 1/2c of yogurt or 1/4c of peanut butter. Unlike milk, yogurt CAN be added to citrus-based smoothies without resulting in a funky flavor, so knock yourself out if you want an orange creamsicle smoothie. You don’t need to adjust the golden ratio – just add the yogurt or peanut butter in addition to your liquid and solid.

Basic Smoothie Recipes

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Strawberry Banana (my version of the “Angel Food” from Smoothie King)

1c whole milk

1.5c frozen strawberries

1/2c frozen banana, sliced

1-2tsp Truvia sweetener

This is a thicker smoothie that requires the countertop blender dance to get it to fully incorporate, but is totally worth the [minimal] effort. Makes around 24oz.

 

Cherry Limeade

1/4c lime juice

3/4c water

1/2c pineapple chunks

1c frozen cherries

This combination is pretty tart, so swap the pineapple for another 1/2c frozen cherries if you prefer a more mellow cherry limeade. Or you can always put in a tsp or so of Truvia if that’s your thing. My blender handled this with no issues; it was thinner than the Strawberry Banana without being runny.

I have a few more potential smoothie combos in the back of my head which I will certainly have time to test out before the summer ends. Peanut butter banana is sounding pretty good right now, as is chocolate cherry. If I come up with anything stellar, I’ll make another smoothie post for future me. =)

Julia

 

P.S. The photos on this post are from Pexels.com, as I hate taking photos and can’t be arsed to take decent ones when there are plenty of freeware images for me to use. Especially since a smoothie is a smoothie, ya know?

 

 

Sewing Through the Blehs – Justine Skirt

Well, so much for my proclamation that I wanted to start blogging once a week. But it’s kind of hard to muster the motivation to work on anything when life circumstances have got you down, right? As a lucky recipient of genetically inherited clinical depression, I know all too well what THAT feels like. Fortunately, the blehs I’ve had lately are entirely natural – I’ve been job-hunting and had two in-person interviews that required extensive travel and did not result in job offers. Total bleh.

There are a couple of tricks I’ve developed over the years in order to make as least some slow and steady progress on sewing projects when I’m on the downside, though:

  1. Work on a project that would normally get me excited; something using a luxurious fabric or colors that make me happy. I don’t even bother trying to sew utilitarian garments because that will feel even more like a chore I will just want to avoid. If I actually feel like sewing something, THAT is what I sew.
  2. Do just one thing. Usually that one thing will end up leading to a bit more, and a bit more. My typical “one thing” is to thread my machines with the thread for my next project. It takes just a minute or two to run that thread through my serger and sewing machine, but it gets me in my workroom and working with the machines. I’ve found that often I will finish the threading and think “well, I’ll just finish prepping the pattern”…and then “well, I might as well cut the pieces out”…and so it goes.

As a result of applying both of these tactics, I actually did finish something and it makes me SO FRICKIN’ HAPPY to look at it so I’ve left it on my dressform. It is the Justine skirt, a free pattern from Ready to Sew. I have a serious seamstress crush on button-front skirts this year, and I loved the style of the pockets on the Justine. Not only are they cute, they are great for showcasing buttons. As soon as I saw the style, I imagined it in an ochre linen with dark brown buttons – the same color combination as a big, cheerful roadside patch of wild Black-Eyed Susans.

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Not only have I been fixated on button-front skirts, I have also been inexplicably drawn to deep gold colors. Normally I shy away from colors on the warm side of the spectrum, as I prefer blues, purples, and greens to bring out my dark blue eyes. But it’s like I broke some sort of color barrier by choosing coral as one of my summer wardrobe colors and now I just cannot get this golden yellow out of my head!

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The fabric I used is a rayon linen blend from my local Joann. It washes, dries (tumble, low heat), and irons beautifully and was easy to sew; not nearly as wiggly as some other rayons and linens I’ve used.

As patterns go, this one is fairly straightforward: rectangles for the fronts, a rectangle for the back, rectangle for the waistband, and a curved-top pocket patch. There are multiple files included in the download and it was a big confusing to sort out which one to use. I also had an issue with some of the lines for the skirt panels being wonky and misaligned, so I had to true them before I cut out the pieces. Again, not a big issue because this pattern is mostly rectangles. It does make me wonder if the Ready to Sew paid-for patterns have this same issue, though.

Pattern truing

It’s hard to say whether my favorite detail is the front placket or the fold-flap pockets – they are both awesome and surprisingly simple to sew. Because the pocket flap is purely decorative, it’s as easy as any other patch pocket; plus, the pattern has you sew two pieces together and turn so that all of the raw edges are encased. It results in a very clean end look.

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The button placket is interfaced and folded twice to the wrong side. Part of me wanted to skip the interfacing, but I forced myself to do things exactly as called for in the pattern. It did strike me as odd that while the button placket is interfaced, the waistband is not. Again, I thought about deviating and interfacing it, but no! I behaved myself and stuck with the instructions.

Placket

Aside from the fact that this is linen and you can never press linen too much, I really wanted that placket to be crisp so I pressed the heck out of it between each step. Because I know I will make this pattern again (I was already envisioning an olive green with black buttons while finishing this version), I think I might try flipping the packet to the right side so that the edge is more pronounced. I’ve seen plackets done both ways and the underside placket seems cleaner/simpler, while the exposed placket is a more modern decorative finish. Yay for options!

Skirt guts

I did all of my serging in white because 1. I wasn’t going to buy 4 spools of ochre thread when this is the only fabric in that color that I currently own, and 2. I kind of like the look of a contrasting but complimentary serger thread on the interior garment seams. It might be hard to tell from this picture, but I sewed on the waistband in reverse (yes, on purpose!) in accordance with Lauren of Lladybird‘s recommendation. On one of her many jeans-making posts, she mentioned that if you sew the waistband right side to the pants wrong side FIRST, then fold, press under the seam allowance, and topstitch on the RIGHT side as opposed to the wrong side as recommended by most instructions, then you have complete control over the look of the topstitching on the outside. Brilliant!

Oh, and I used to HATE putting in the two rows of basting stitches for gathering, just like how I hate staystitching or doing any other stitching that is meant to be removed. It has always seemed, just like most other temporary things, to be a waste of time. And yet the results when you gather the fabric using two well-placed rows of basting are so pretty and even. The pattern recommends doing two rows that end at each quarter of the skirt (i.e., right front, right back, left back, left front as separate basting sections) so that you aren’t trying to work the fabric of the entire skirt across one set of stitches. It definitely allows for more control and easier gathering.

My next project is to sew up a faux wrap dress using the rayon jersey I bought at the same time as this ochre linen/rayon. I was good and only got two cuts of fabric while visiting the new Joann location near my house, but they had so many lovely things! Tons of nice cottons and rayons. It’s nice to know that I can go somewhere local for fashion fabrics!

Julia

Mystery Blogger Award

One of my favorite things about the online sewing community is that we are all over the globe, encompassing many cultures and backgrounds, yet we are all held together by a common (not gonna say thread, that’s too easy) interest. We are so different, but I’ll be honest – with a lot of the sewing blogs that I follow, I feel as if the authors are my friends even though we have never met; I know I am not the only one who thinks that way, either.

Thus, I think of the wonderful Sarah of Wanderstitch as my friend across the pond and I look forward to her Sunday posts. We have similar figures, so I find it helpful to see what styles and silhouettes she chooses; and it’s especially fun to see her fabric choices because our coloring and print preferences are quite different. It’s funny – I’m usually not a frequent commenter on blogs, but I have gotten in the habit of commenting on almost all of Sarah’s posts because they invite dialogue. Sometimes I just cannot keep my thoughts to myself 😉

When I read her post today and got to the part where she nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award, I did a Sheila Broflovski:

Sheila WHAT

Rather than restate everything that is already codified elsewhere, here is a link to the original Mystery Blogger Award post on Okoto Enigma’s blog.

So, three things about myself that I haven’t already said in my “About” section…

  1. When I first graduated from high school, I wanted to be a bio technician. My long-term plan was to eventually become a genetic counselor because I found genetic “translation” fascinating. I even won first prize in the annual biotech competition at my local community college, which involved performing what is called gel electrophoresis. However, the program I was in (at that same community college where I won the prize) was designed for research rather than diagnostics, which requires a different set of skills. Also, I realized that there was no way I could cope with a job that required me to essentially go to work every day and tell people that their kids were going to be screwed up. I did not and do not have the emotional fortitude for that. So I switched my major to English, because WHY NOT?! And now I am a college English Professor.
  2. Even though I’m not afraid of bugs or spiders and I am certainly not bothered by killing them, I absolutely cannot step on them. I am hypersensitive to certain things, and the sound/feel of a crunching carapace gives me the heebie jeebies like no other. Raid is my best friend in this regard, and my cats are great at notifying me of insect incursions so that I can be armed and ready to eliminate the interlopers without using shoes to do it.
  3. It’s pretty obvious if you enter my house, but not so much on the internet – Elephants have been my favorite animal since I was about 2 years old. I have tons of elephant art, decorations, figurines, etc. And the collection will continue to grow, because anyone who wants to give me a gift tends to default to something with an elephant on it. I am fine with this. I don’t particularly care about the luck aspect, so I do not have a preference for trunk-up poses. If it looks like an elephant, I will like it!

Henna Elephant

If I were to get a tattoo, it would be of this lovely mandala elephant! I wish I knew who drew it so that I could give him/her mad props.

Now for Sarah’s questions…

  1. If I could time travel, when would I go to? My initial impulse is to say Regency England, because I am a huge fan of Regency romances (M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney is my hero!). But definitely not London because I’m not a city person – I’d probably be governess to some aristocrat’s bratty children on his country estate or whatever.
  2. If I could have one superpower, what would it be? I’m not sure if this is common or weirdly unique, but I have long wished that I could shoot a whirlwind out of my hands. When I worked at Barnes and Noble in my early 20s, I used to imagine myself flinging my arms at the shelves and generating a whirlwind that would blow books everywhere. And then I would immediately feel horrible because OMG DON’T DAMAGE THE BOOKS! But the image of papers flying everywhere just struck me as cool. Also, it would be nice to be able to blow cars off the road when their drivers are acting like assholes.
  3. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured? So, funny story – being 4’10”, my face is at elbow-height for most guys and a lot of girls, so I refuse to play most sports for my own personal safety. When I was going through Navy Officer Candidate School, my class of 15 people was doing some pretty intense physical training. At a break in the exercises, our Senior Chief yelled at us to hydrate; all of our canteens were piled together in a corner, so there was a bit of a mob situation while we sorted out whose was whose, and we only had 60 seconds to get them, drink water, and then get back in line. Reminder – my face is at elbow level for most guys. Well, one of my friends went to turn around and elbowed me right in the nose. Fortunately it didn’t break, but it did start to bleed. I ran back to the line and was standing at attention while pinching the bridge of my nose with one hand to keep from bleeding all over the place. Our Senior Chief looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you?!” and I yelled “ELBOW TO THE FACE, SIR!” He said, “get in the head!” so I ran to the bathroom to patch myself up. Thank God it wasn’t too bad, but it did hurt like hell. At least it was funny, even at the time, and I still laugh when I think about it.
  4. Would I rather know the history of every object I touched or be able to talk to animals? I’ve read books with characters that can do both of these things, and I think I’d much rather know the history of objects; animals are pretty damn stupid and I don’t even like listening to other people talk most of the time… But I enjoy history, particularly from a cultural anthropology perspective, so I think if I did have the ability to know the history of objects, I would spend WAY too much time at estate sales =) BTW, one of my favorite series that involves a character that can sense the history of an object is the Witchcraft Mysteries series by Juliet Blackwell. They are technically cozy mysteries and are set in present-day San Francisco.
  5. If I could only eat three foods for the rest of my life, what would they be? The first one is easy – Carnation Instant Breakfast (I know they changed the name to Breakfast Essentials but I don’t care) in milk chocolate, preferably the sugar-free version. I have drank one of these mixes nearly every morning for two decades. I also use it as a meal replacer when I am trying to lose/maintain weight. I really should own stock in the stuff at this point. For the second one, I desperately want to say turtle cheesecake, but I know that that would get old fast, so instead I’ll say Mushroom Fettuccine as made by Lindsay at Pinch of Yum. OMG that stuff is addicting and I finally got myself off of the kick of eating it 4 times every week. Her food blog is my absolute favorite, BTW. And third’s gotta be pizza with Italian sausage. I’m not picky about crust, although I do tend to prefer regular rather than thin or deep dish.

Ok, I know I’m supposed to nominate other people to do this, but I think everyone I follow has already done it. Does that mean I need to follow more bloggers? Come on, people, ditch Instagram and get back to blogging! Instead, I’ll just list 5 questions and anyone who wants to can reply in the comments. Is that a good compromise? And be sure to link your blog, if you have one.

  1. If you had to teach a 15min class on anything, what topic would you pick?
  2. What is your favorite piece of clothing that you own?
  3. Cake or ice cream?
  4. What is one thing that other people do that you cannot stand? (only one!)
  5. If you could be an animal, what would you be?

Julia

A Little Bit of Union St.

I mentioned before that I’ve been cranking out t-shirts using the Union St. Tee pattern by Hey June Handmade. The pattern has been updated in the last year, and while I did buy it prior to the updates, I never made any using the pre-revision version. The post-revision version includes pattern pieces for a FBA if you are in need of extra room up top. Technically I should/could have used the FBA front piece (I’m a 30DD), but I actually prefer my tops to be more fitted in the bust and hip and loose in the waist so I just went with the standard B-cup front pattern piece as drafted.

Coral Front

Coral Back

Purple Front
My first two Union St. Tees were made using the scoop neck front; I love a good scoop neck and this one is perfect – not too low, not to high. However, my rough-and-ready laundry tendencies have resulted in some preliminary bacon neck, so I’m sticking with the V-neck for all future Union St. makes. The fabric I used for the purple and coral t-shirts is the wonderful Kaufman Laguna Jersey, bought from Fabric.com. It is the budget-friendly cotton-lycra knit that I plan to buy tons and tons more of in the future, after I have successfully worked through more of my stash.

Turquoise Front

This gorgeous turquoise (sold out! *gasp*) is Kaufman Dana Jersey, the fancy cousin to Laguna. It is a cotton/modal blend and oh, so wonderfully soft! Definitely worth the cost if you are interested in a bit of a splurge or have an enviable fabric budget.

Mauve Floral Front

Stripe Floral Front

These two floral V-necks are made from 100% cotton jersey that I bought at Hobby Lobby during a sale. I was surprised to see that Hobby Lobby now carries knits, and some 100% cotton ones at that. This fabric was nowhere near as soft as the Kaufman Laguna, but it was cute and cheap so what can I say? They get worn just as much as the others. =)

It’s worth noting for those of you who, like me, have pets and therefore have cat (or dog) hair embedded in all of your clothing – the higher quality the fiber and fabric, the LESS it will grab on to pet hair. I brush my clothes after I take them out of the dryer and I have noticed repeatedly that the two Hobby Lobby jersey tees are fur magnets, while the Kaufman tees barely need to be brushed. Yet another reason to invest in higher quality fabrics when you can.

I have two more V-neck Union St.s cut out and waiting to be sewn up – one in Kaufman Dana Ocean Green (which is actually a deep teal) and one in purple cotton jersey leftovers from a long-ago Renfrew tee. Then I will hopefully be done with my Union St. sewing for a bit and can move on to pants and skirts – two things I need more of and included on my Make Nine for this year.

– Julia

“Can’t You Just Hem it?” – Lengthen/Shorten Adjustments

As a short person (I’m just over 4’10”, or 148cm), I am frequently told that my fitting problems are not such a big deal because I can “just hem” things that are too long. But that is rarely the simple solution that people seem to think it will be. Anyone who has sewn a structured garment of any kind will know that there are fitting points all along the length of a garment that need to be taken into account when adjusting for overall length.

Even though I’ve been sewing for at least two decades, I’d also been in the habit of thinking that I could just default to removing length at the hem or at the “lengthen or shorten here” lines given by the pattern manufacturer. However, I still ended up with pants and tops that just didn’t fit right.

So, what’s a chronic thinker to do? Analyze all of the points along the body where length can be added/removed, of course! AND build a PowerPoint to illustrate it all =)

Slide1

We seamstresses are all familiar with the holy trinity of fit measurements: B/W/H. Those are used specifically for the width of a garment, not the length, and yet the location of those measuring lines is important for determining where to add/remove length from a garment.

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For years, I had been under the impression that I have a short torso and should therefore be removing length from all of my tops. While it is true that I need to remove length from my tops, it’s not because I have a short torso comparative to my overall height. My torso is, in fact, average when measured against my height and the length of my legs. The most important thing that I have known for years and yet never took into account when altering the length of my tops is that STRAPS ARE ALWAYS TOO LONG. It is difficult for me to shorten RTW bra straps enough that they aren’t always falling off of my shoulders. Low-cut tops are practically indecent on me. Darts are always too low. I have what is referred to as a High Bust, which requires a High Bust Adjustment. Therefore, I need to be removing length from my top patterns between the shoulder seam and the full bust rather than just hacking off a few inches at the hem or taking out inches at the waist.

Primary Fit Measurements

Legs are a bit simpler, but it is just as important to understand how adding/removing length at different places will change the shape of the garment. This is not as important on straight-leg or wide-leg pants, where the width is consistent from the thigh through the ankle. But for flares or tapered pants, length needs to be added in equal amounts both above and below the knee in order to ensure that the overall shape of the pant leg stays the same as the style you chose.

Prior to my “big think” on the issues associated with lengthen/shorten locations, I was in the habit of just hacking out 3-4 inches of length at the knee of any pants pattern. The problem with this is that I prefer flares; when I take out such a big chunk of length at the narrowest point of the leg, it widens the overall length of the leg silhouette. Well, duh, self! No wonder all of my self-made pants seemed to be too thick through the knee!

It is the same with the “just hem out the length” approach – if you are altering flared pants, then the flare will not be as pronounced and will possibly end up more like a boot-cut if you remove length at the hem line. Conversely, if you are shortening skinny or tapered pants, they will be much wider at the ankle than they were designed to be if you cut off the narrowest part of the hem.

Taller ladies have the opposite problem. If you add length at the hemline, you will end up with exaggerated bell-bottom flares OR skinny jeans that you can’t get your foot through because the cuff is too narrow. So for all of us, our best bet is to splice the length at the mid-point of the thigh AND the calf, grading the inseam and outseam to smooth the transition and preserve the overall shape of the leg.

Additional resources:

Free Notion has an article about petite hem lengths.

Hanne Vandersteen has written an excellent article about high/low bust adjustment.

And now that I have all of that sorted, it’s time to make myself some pants that not only fit in the waist/hip, but also have the same leg silhouette as the pattern I chose!

– Julia

P.S. I’ve been sewing a TON of knit tops and I keep telling myself that I need to blog them. Now that I have the length stuff out of my head and “on paper”, I’ll finally get around to posting some FOs =)