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

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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 =)

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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 =)

Reminder to Self: Pants Fit Comparison

In my quest to develop my perfect wardrobe, I realized that I wanted to be able to duplicate RTW pieces that I’ve had and worn for years; working from commercial patterns is nice, but there are a few garments I love that I haven’t been able to find existing patterns to recreate. I saw that Craftsy had a class by Steffani Lincecum called “Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear” and I immediately bought and watched it. Steffani mentions in the intro that she published a book, “Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit“, that also describes her methods for drafting patterns off of existing garments WITHOUT TAKING THEM APART. For me, that was key.

For about 10 years, I have been wearing Lucky Brand jeans in the Sophia (now Lolita) cut because they are one of the few RTW jeans I’ve found that were drafted for girls with big butts and tiny waists. The problem (or so I thought) is that because they are mid-rise, they tend to give me faux muffin top after I’ve had them on for a few hours. By comparison, my Thurlow trousers hug my waist, which means that I don’t have fake love handles when I wear them. Today, I finally found myself wondering just what the difference is between my LB Lolitas and my Thurlows; I’d long assumed that the rise and crotch depth on the Thurlows was longer and that was why they hit me closer to my natural waist, so that was the first thing I measured.

SURPRISE! Both the front AND back rise of my LB Lolitas are IDENTICAL to my Thurlow trousers. WTF?! Then why do my Lolitas cut into my upper hip while the Thurlows sit just below my waist? My next step was to measure the waistband of each pair of pants. My Thurlows are about a 30″ waist, which hits at approximately 1″ below my bellybutton and 2″ below my natural waist (which is 27″). The LB Lolitas have a 31.5″ waist, which starts off 1″ below my bellybutton and then slides down about another 1” to sit on my high hip. Another key difference between the two waistbands is that the jeans have a flat, rectangular waistband that is cut as one continuous strip, whereas the Thurlow trouser pattern has a curved/contoured waistband.

Thus, the combined effect of a flat waistband and a slightly large waist measurement is that my LB Lolitas end up “riding low” on my high hip when I would rather have them stay fitted at 1″ below my waist. The measurement of my waist at 1″ below my bellybutton is 30″ (yes, my waist curves from 27″ to 30″ in just 2″ of length – this is what curvy looks like), so the Thurlow waistband is exactly the right measurement thanks to the adjusting bits in the center back. I think I end up taking 1.5″ out of either side for a total of 3″ less than the overall waistband length as drafted.

The result of this series of observations and measurements is that when I draft a pattern using my LB Lolitas as a model, I plan to take at least 1.5″ out of the waist via the back seam and shorten the waistband accordingly. I may up it to -2″ since I plan to use stretch denim. And I shall continue to use the Thurlow trouser pattern for my work slacks because it actually fits me the way that pants should. Yay!

Julia

 

Etymology Notes: Is DIY the new Amateur?

As an English professor, I spend a lot of time thinking about words, definitions, and phraseology. I am especially interested in observing how language changes over time. Something I have noticed lately is that the word DIY (or DIYer) keeps popping up in descriptions for sewing-related books, equipment, TV shows, etc. I am extremely confused by the phrase “DIY sewer” – if you are sewing, a sewist, a sewer, a seamstress, or a tailor, doesn’t that inherently mean that you are doing-it-yourself? Why the need for redundancy?

That got me to thinking about the advent of the modern DIY movement and the creation of the DIY network (a spin-off from HGtv). When those shows were using the term DIY, it was to differentiate between a professional who is paid to do the job versus a person who does the work as a hobby or sideline interest, just for their own applications.

Funny, though, we already had a word that meant “unpaid work” – Amateur. An amateur artist is someone who paints for enjoyment and not as their paid profession; an amateur carpenter does woodworking as a hobby and not their primary source of income; an amateur seamstress sews for herself and her family and not as a commercial enterprise. Frequently, amateurs can be just as technically skilled as professionals. The only difference is that an amateur does NOT use their skills as their source of income. That is it. That’s the only difference.

The problem is that amateur has been used as a disparaging term often enough that it has become negatively connotated. That is, it comes with a negative emotional “flavor” that is not inherently part of the dictionary (i.e., denotative) definition of the word. So there have been enough times that someone said, “pfft, what an AMATEUR.” or “wow, that is so amateurish,” that the word can no longer be used as a matter-of-fact label that simply means unpaid. Thus, the need for a new word that can mean unpaid and does not have the emotional baggage of amateur is what led to the term DIYer.

I still maintain that it’s kind of silly to say DIY sewer, though. If you aren’t doing it yourself, then how can you be sewing? But that’s a [word] problem for another day.

~ Julia

Analysis Paralysis, Procrastination, and Other Excuses (Grey Aurora Tee)

Y’all! I finished a project AND took pictures of me wearing it! And now I’m writing a blog post about it! WHO AM I?! But seriously, this is something that I would like to get better about in 2018. I want to finish more “cake” projects that I can incorporate into my daily wear, plus I want to get better about documenting the things that I make so that I have a better record of what works, what doesn’t, and what I would like to do differently next time.

This project is the Aurora Tee (view A) by Hey June Patterns in a deep stash marled grey mystery jersey with good drape and high polyester content. Knowing my old fabric buying habits, it was likely acquired from Denver Fabrics or Fabric.com at least 7 years ago, but I’m sure it would be relatively easy to find a similar fabric now. I had about a yard and a half of it, which ended up being the perfect amount for me to cut out the pieces for a size S. Because the marl runs at an acute angle to the grain of the fabric, it was a major pain in the ass to get the fabric laid out flat for cutting so that I wouldn’t end up with twisted side seams; I have enough twisted ready-to-wear t-shirts, so it’s something I want to avoid in my sewing.

IMG_0503

(Insert typical disclaimer about ignoring my un-fixed hair and boring makeup)

I LOVE this top! It’s similar to one that I bought at the Lucky Brand outlet a few years ago which gets a ton of wear, so I plan to make several more. The fit is loose, but the side seams are curved in at the waist so that it doesn’t look completely shapeless. I did not make any alterations to the pattern and I sewed it exactly as the instructions specify, to include using the interfaced facing for the neckline rather than a neckband.

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Most of the other people who have made up this pattern have swapped the facings out for a neckband, which would make this shirt more like a RTW tee. However, the facing gave me a good place to put my label and helps to further stabilize the neckline so that it doesn’t get overly stretched – it is already a nice, wide neck (not quite a boatneck, but close) and if it wasn’t stabilized with the knit interfacing, there would be increased likelihood of bra-strap-peek. As it is, I had no problems with that particular issue while doing my usual activities in this top.

IMG_0510

I love a shirttail hem because I am a curvy girl with a shelf-ass, so without some extra length I end up doing a plumber whenever I sit/bend/move. I don’t necessarily need the curved hem in the front, but I do like the style. I might try a hi-low hem hack on a future make.

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The lower sleeves are fitted, but without being constricting. I plan to give this shirt to my BFF because polyester makes me overheat something awful, and I’m confident that the sleeves will not be tight enough to trigger her tactile sensitivity. Hopefully she’ll get plenty of wear out of this t-shirt!

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As far as construction details, I ended up using all three of my machines so that I could get a clean, simple finish. Of note, the seam allowances are 1/2in and not the 5/8in that is standard with Big 4 patterns. I serged the pieces together, top-stitched the facing down to the neckline with a plain straight stitch and used a few tailor’s tacks on the shoulder seams to hold it in place, then coverstitched the hem and sleeves.

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The most important part of hemming is always to get it nicely turned and pressed before you sew/serge/coverstitch anything. That way, you can see the finished length and ensure an even edge before you secure it in place; this saves a lot of ripping and unpicking. And it may seem silly to press a t-shirt while you’re sewing it – let’s be honest, it’ll never be touched by an iron ever again – but it really does help with getting a clean, professional look on the finished garment.

Overall, I am extremely happy with my Aurora tee and will be making many more out of several types of drapey knits that I have had in my stash for years. I will probably make a few with neckbands just for variety (and once I run out of knit interfacing), but I highly recommend making at least one with a facing to see how you like it. Much like the difference between a coverstitched hem, a raw hem, a turned plain hem, or a serged hem, it’s really more about the look you like and what techniques you prefer to use. One more technique tool for the toolbox!

Hopefully I’ll be able to ride my finished-project high from this t-shirt and not go for another month without making anything. Fingers crossed =)

~ Julia

 

#2018MakeNine My Way

Instead of setting specific goals (sewing and otherwise) for 2018, I’m trying to keep things a bit more loose. I’ve realized that the more specific my queue gets, the less likely I am to make any progress and the more likely I am to feel guilty about that lack of progress. So… if the game sucks, change the rules! My two pseudo-resolutions for 2018 are:

1. Do new things incrementally and at a more gradually increasing level of difficulty rather than starting at expert/insanity level and burning out after one week.

2. Be more deliberate and intentional with food choices instead of just eating whatever I feel like eating when I’m hungry.

Now that I’ve got that down, I’ll move on to my sewing-specific 2018 pseudo-resolutions and my version of the #MakeNine challenge. Instead of picking nine specific patterns, I’ve decided to go with nine categories and give myself plenty of wiggle room in picking patterns and fabrics to fit those categories. I’m not going to work on these projects in any particular order – these are just the areas in which I would like to add to my wardrobe over the course of the year.

And because I’m both a Navy officer and a college professor…I made a powerpoint to help me organize my thoughts! *geek*

Slide1Slide2Slide3Slide4Slide5Slide6Slide7Slide8Slide9Slide10

Now that I’ve got all of that down on “paper” and in one place, I can get on with the actual sewing.

Well, after I clean up the workroom. That’s step One. =)

– Julia