Threading Lightly

Adventures in amateur sewing

Tie Bow close up


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The networking blouse: or how to succeed in business by really really trying!

Pattern: Simplicity 1779 (view c)Simplicity 1779

They say that job searching is all about the networking.  Let me tell you from a diagnosed introvert, networking really sucks.  You really have to put yourself out there, totally out of your comfort zone and start conversations with complete strangers.  You have no idea if they want to talk to you or not.  Sometimes these conversations go well, sometimes they feel as painful as falling down a flight of stairs.  Making that perfect connection that furthers your career can feel like a needle in a haystack.  It’s also extremely exhausting, being “on” all the time.  When I come home after a few hours of networking, I feel almost as if I ran a marathon.  But it is important – applying for open jobs the old fashion way definitely doesn’t get the maximum result.  And getting a job can be more “who you know” than “what you know” in general.

I feel it helps to have some sort of ice breaker prepared.  Which is why last week, I wore this homemade blouse to two networking opportunities in a row.  I thought if anything, I could mention that I made this blouse myself, especially if someone complimented it.  Maybe it would give me some much needed confidence as I attempted to sell myself (not in a bad way) to any stranger that was listening.

Blouse fabric

I saw this fabric in the back room of one of my favorite stores, Sewfisticated in Framingham, MA.  It may even be from a famous designer, I forget now since I bought it a few years ago.  It had this great sheer quality, but to my surprise it was 100% cotton.  I really like the watercolor-like print and I knew that I wanted to make a blouse out of it.  I chose this Simplicity pattern despite the fact that it calls for a contrast fabric.  The tie-bow was the real draw for me and I feel the pattern works even without the contrast.

 

Stitching up front button band

Sewing the front placket – you can see how I stitched it to the front

 

This pattern is pretty simple, the only thing that confused me a little was the front placket.  I think I did this correctly – I started by pressing one side over, then stitched the placket to the front, right sides together.  I then folded the band so it was inside out with the right sides together and stitched across the top and bottom as shown below.

Stitching the ends of the band

Now, when flipped right-side out, the top and the bottom were finished nicely.  Lastly, I stitched along the edge to close up the band.  I was happy with this result.  The cuffs on the sleeves were sewn on in a very similar way as well – these directions were not as clear, but what I did seem to work well.

finishing up front band

As this was pretty sheer material, I did french seams on everything.  The fit on this is pretty good, although if I make this again I think I will flare out the bottom a little more, to fit around my hips better.  It’s unusual for me to make adjustments for tops, so I didn’t even think about it.

Tie Bow close up

Close up of the tie-bow, my favorite part of this blouse.

I was hoping to have some definitive news on the job front by the time I posted about this blouse, but all I can say is things are moving in a better direction.  It will be nice when this becomes a work blouse instead of a networking blouse.  However, I am starting to recognize that it will be important to continue this exhausting task of making connections, even when I am back in the working world.

final sheer blouse

Ready to take on a new job!

 

crossing the finish line


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Run for it! A reflection on running as I sew with spandex

Pattern: Fehr Trade Duathlon Shorts (3-quarter length)Fehr Trade Duathlon Shorts pattern

Skills acquired:

  • PDF patterns

I’ve never considered myself a runner.  When I was in middle school, we were forced to run a mile and a half in gym class and it was always a day I dreaded.  The gym teacher made fun of the way I swung my arms when I ran.  “You look like this,” she said, while she made some exaggerated movements.  She called me a retard.  She said I was un-athletic.  This would turn anyone off from running.

I didn’t really pick up running, except for the odd jog around the neighborhood, until I started having some real life problems.  Lack of control in my life situations created major anxiety.  I was not myself, I was just a walking bundle of nerves and hurt feelings.  I wasn’t sleeping properly and so I slowly introduced a running routine to “tire me out” during the day.  It also relieved some of those anxious feelings:

Oh you have to move – run 5 miles to feel better
Grad school is getting to you – see if you can make it to 6 miles
You didn’t get that job – run 3 miles faster than you have before

Everything would play through my head during these runs, and I started to add more and more distance to work out all my problems.  It became a kind of therapy, a time to be alone with my thoughts. Eventually I figured I would try to run a half-marathon.  Then, things started getting better in my life – I got a new job, got into a better routine, started making some better friendship choices, fell in love.  I knew I would never be the fastest runner, but I could always finish the race and I wouldn’t be the last one lagging behind worrying about swinging my arms too much.  Last fall, I joined a running club and have met some wonderful people.  I get a chance to run with others without the pressure of being the best and the weekly runs motivate me and keep me in check.

I have always wanted to combine my two hobbies – sewing and running.  I’ve made a few leggings that I do run in, but haven’t really embraced making my own active wear.  I wanted to try out this pattern, which I bought probably a year ago, but have put it off because it’s a *gasp* pdf pattern.  I’ve never really used one before because the printing and taping together was really overwhelming to me.  I finally went for it – I had actually printed this out months ago.

pdf pattern map

Okay so taping this together wasn’t that hard, I’m not sure why I resisted it so much.  I decided it was better to trace the pattern pieces with some tracing paper so they were more manageable and also so I only had to work with one size.  The only real issue with this pattern is I’m not sure how to store it compactly.  I rolled it up since folding it seemed difficult and messy.  I’m thinking after seeing the monstrous roll, I may need to tape it up further and figure out a way to fold it.  As is, it fits nowhere.

With other leggings I made in the past, I used a cotton knit blend.  This time I was going pure spandex all the way, so the obviously weapon of choice would be my serger.  You start this pattern with the side stripes so it makes a nice diagonal.Side stripe strips  I just went for it on the serger which was a huge mistake.  Even though the seam was short and I had it sufficiently held together, when the spandex hits the blade it shifts a lot.  It’s just so slippery and the stretchy nature of the fabric pulls too much to keep the two pieces together smoothly. I tried to cut the pieces apart and try again, but it just got weirder.

side stripe mistake

This was obviously not right.  After some failed attempts, I ended up cutting new stripes out and decided to baste them together on my machine using long stitches.  Then I went to the serger.  Result!

side stripe on pants

That’s more like it!  This worked so much better I decided not to take any chances and sewed everything up this way – baste first, serge second.

One Leg done on pants

One leg done…I labeled the front on these as I worked as recommended on the pattern.

This all sewed up fairly easy after I figured it out.  I used a reinforced stretch stitch on my machine for the hem and waist.

Pocket

It also comes with handy side pockets in the stripes, perfect to fit a small phone or keys.  I did a test run of these a few weeks ago and I ended up breaking my previous 5K record!  Can’t beat pants like that – although the rain may have had a bigger factor in this.

running pants - final

Running my running club’s weekly 5K in my new pants

They are a little baggy in the legs – next time I should taper the bottom legs to the Medium instead of cutting the whole pant as Large.  Always tough with my hips.  And the fact that I’ve lost a few pounds this month due to other stresses.

These worked so well, I decided to wear these for the half-marathon I ran this past weekend.  I have been training all through this difficult time of unemployment and hustling for a new job.  I figured it would inspire me to wear something I made to remind myself I can get over mistakes and difficulties and I can create something of value.  And they worked again – I beat my own personal record for a half-marathon by over 2 minutes!

And hey, does this also count for Me Made May ’16?  I think so!

I may never be the runner who pulls in prizes and amazes people, but I still have my own wins and challenges to overcome.  Running and sewing have meant so much to me during my most difficult times, I’m glad I am able to share both on this blog.

crossing the finish line

Bicycle pants


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An update on loungewear

Pattern: Kwik Sew 3793

We interrupt this blog to bring you the picture I was hoping to include on my previous entry about lounge-wear.  Back when I was on my pajama pant kick, I made my guy some nice ones out of bicycle flannel.  I used this kwik sew pattern because it includes a fly, but I also added pockets using an online tutorial.  There is a little bit about the pocket install on my other blog post.

Pockets on pj pants

I wanted to share the final result, although these pictures are only from the waist down since I wasn’t sure my special man-friend wanted to appear in this blog.

Bicycle pants

The greatest part is I happen to have a pair for myself made in light blue bicycle flannel so we can match!

Snap fly

I’m not being a pervert here, just wanted to show the fly which I installed some heavy duty snaps on.  There is also a nice drawstring (not pictured).

So there is my update on the PJ pants.  I think these came out better than most of the ones I made for myself!

 

IMG_3552


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See my vest…in textured fleece

Kwik Sew 3813Pattern: Kwik Sew K3813

Some key takeaways:

  • Wait to buy your separating zipper until you confirm the final length
  • Make sure your fabric works for the arm binding, if not you can use spandex or knit

Just as spring made its way in New England, so did the cold weather.  For a winter which saw 70 degree temperatures on Christmas Eve and only 2 snow storms, this spring sure is cold!  We had more snow storms in April than in March, and now that it is May, I can’t walk around my house without a sweatshirt.  Or a fleece….which brings me to….

I decided to make a fleece vest!  I started this a bit on the late side – as in after winter was technically over.  Glad this cold weather started up, or I would have felt completely foolish!

This was a pretty ambitious project.  I have never made anything like this before, and half-way through making the vest, I was worried I may be in over my head.  However, the results of this one are very positive!

When I first decided to make this pattern, Continue reading

hooded overshirt


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Southwestern Over-shirt: Joys in the hood

Pattern: McCalls stitch n’ save 6681M6681

Skills acquired:

  • Homemade bias tape
  • Hoods!

There comes a time in every sewist’s life when they realize they are still learning.  I’ve been killin’ it on so many projects lately (with some minor complications), I really thought I was heading up to the big leagues.  Then I had to make a hood.  I don’t know why this baffled me so much, but looking back on it, it all seems rather stupid.

First of all this pattern is labeled “easy” right on the front.  This should not have been as much of a challenge as it was.  I think some unclear writing and my own inexperience with making a hood contributed to this lesson.

Let me step back a minute on this one.  I chose this pattern because I wanted to make something else besides pajama pants with this cotton flannel I had bought when on vacation in New Mexico.  I specifically searched for patterns for flannel fabric and figured for this type of native-american-like print some sort of over-shirt would be nice.  I thought this pattern looked cute with the hood and everything so I decided to go for it.   Continue reading

IMG_3015


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A tribute to lounge wear – a few variations

Patterns: Sewaholic Tofino pants, McCalls M6681 & free-form pantsSewaholic Tofino

Skills acquired:

  • Adding pockets
  • Piping 

I’ve made some PJ pants in my time, in fact I’ve made a lot recently.  I decided to consolidate them all in one post, for more efficiency (another one of my job skills – companies take note!).

Pajama pants are probably the most basic garment there is.  It’s the perfect thing to make when you are first learning to sew.  You don’t really need a pattern, there are no zippers and they are made from basic cotton fabric.  There are ways to dress them up and build off the simple design, but for the most part there is nothing easier.  The most basic patterns have two pieces for the front and two for the back.  These all get sewn up pretty much how you would imagine (even the order doesn’t matter too much) and you end up with two legs.  The waistband gets folded down, an elastic is added, the pant legs are hemmed…and voila!  Something you can lounge around in that you made all your own.

Put it in your pocket

I wanted to make my boyfriend a new pair of lounge pants since I felt like I could improve upon the pants I had made him a while back.  He said to me, “If you do make another pair, could you add pockets?”  Hmmm…this was something I never thought of.  There aren’t too many patterns out there that include pockets on such a garment and I didn’t really trust myself to figure this out on my own.  I found this handy tutorial online and decided to experiment with some pants I was going to make myself, just so I could get it right.  I had a remnant of flannel which I really liked, although I did not have enough to make full length, which is why these are cropped.

PJ Pocket pants

It was all pretty straightforward, however I kept messing up because I had a hard time Continue reading

IMG_3190


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The flannel shirt A/B test

Pattern: Grainline Studio Archer shirt

A/B testing is kind of my thing.  I did this a lot at my former job and it’s always exciting to me when I get real results from an idea or theory.  I’m a total nerd for data.  Back when I was just toying with the idea of making a flannel shirt I had bought two different independent shirt patterns and couldn’t decide which one to use.

Sewaholic VS Grainline

I did some initial reading up on both patterns, and made the decision to start with the Sewaholic Granville shirt because the pattern was designed for pear-shaped bodies (like mine).  I liked the result, shown in my previous post, but I couldn’t help but wonder how the shirt would look using the other pattern.  Well, the only way to know for sure is to test it out.

Hypothesis: The Sewaholic Granville shirt pattern is the better pattern for making a plaid flannel shirt

Now this obviously cannot be a real A/B test since there are a lot of factors in this test that make it imperfect and not scientific.  We all know that the first attempt at something has the most learning curve and so some techniques that were new to me when making the Granville shirt, were more familiar when making the Archer shirt.  Also the material I used for the Archer shirt was a lot cheaper, in price and quality, so the overall result would be slightly different no matter what.  There is no way to hold all conditions equal for this experiment, but I decided to still test out the following parameters:

  • Ease of pattern directions
  • Garment details
  • Overall fit and look

Ease of Pattern Directions

Both patterns have clear directions that could help anyone making their first button-down shirt.  The drawings are all well done and precise.  I did find it strange that the Grainline pattern didn’t specify which drawing referred to the interfacing cutting layout.  There is Continue reading

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