The new business casual: My bamboo joggers

Pattern: Hudson Pant from True Bias

I’ve been working from home since March 2020. Although it has many advantages, especially with the gas prices being what they are, I do miss going to another location to work. My company has said we are going to go back eventually, probably as a more hybrid experience, but the date has been pushed out so often I’m not sure what to think. In the beginning, I tried to wear my normal work clothes. However, after awhile I noticed myself going more for what is comfortable and even wearing the same outfit multiple days in a row (less to wash right?).

Working from home has been great for my sewing. Working in close proximity to my sewing machine means I can stitch up a few things on my lunch break or between meetings. For awhile I was even sewing up masks on my lunch break or just after my work day completed (when I would normally be commuting). Small projects can be completed during the week instead of trying to fit everything on the weekend.

What working from home has not been great for is my clothes wearing. I tend to grab for the same comfortable outfits, ignoring my old work wardrobe and even worse some of my recent makes. I made a cute pinafore last year with some great plaid material. I have not even put it on once. Same with my seersucker dress – and I had been planning that garment for many months before I even got to it.

Sometime during this pandemic, I happened to see a pattern for some casual lounge pants. Realizing that these pants looked closer to my current wardrobe, I immediately purchased it. I cannot remember exactly when, since time seems to run together now when I think about the last few years. But now that my serger is back to its usual health, I figured it was time to cut into the plum bamboo and cotton stretch knit fleece I ordered online at Mood Fabrics. Making them in an interesting color would at least make them more unique than just the pants I have now, right?

I have to say, now that I’ve worn these three work days in a row, I love them. I’ve always been a fan of bamboo knit – it has to be the most comfortable fabric ever and something I need to seek out more often. On my first try, these ended up being the perfect size and the pattern was definitely easy enough for a beginner to follow. I definitely want to make more of these – it sewed up pretty fast and this is one of the first pants patterns that I didn’t have to adjust the length for my average height body! The only difficult part is trying to serge on the bottom cuffs – because the circle is so small it’s tough to keep the fabric stretched right as you sew around. I think basting the cuff in first and then serging would have made it easier to avoid the fabric bunching so that is what I will do next time. The pockets are great and I love the extra detail with the strip at the top.

Oddly enough just after I finished these, I saw a Facebook ad about “Oprah’s favorite joggers” and saw some bamboo joggers that looked very similar to the ones I just made (not in plum of course). It was a really great feeling knowing what I made was currently in style. I guess joggers are now the new business casual. I just hope someday soon I can show off my other clothes, even if it’s just a few days a week.

Take Two for 2022: The Switzerland Sweater

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor V-Neck

Most of the time when you make a garment for the second time, it comes out better than the first. Unfortunately I learned this is not always the case, and there are certain factors to consider when attempting to recreate a item you have already made. In the case of my Switzerland Sweater, I didn’t realize the difference in fabric from my wearable muslin would make such a difference in the final outcome.

To back up a bit, this all started when I decided to buy this very expensive merino wool fabric when I was on vacation in Switzerland. I wanted something to remind me of the trip, and the blue wool knit seemed reminiscent of the electric blue lakes and rivers I had seen. I envisioned a cozy sweater that would transport me back to the mountains, even if I was just drinking coffee on my snowy back deck. The Tabor V-neck pattern by Sew House Seven seemed to have a look similar to what I was going for, but of course wanted to test it out before cutting into my pricey new fabric. I found a nice neutral gray sweater knit and went to work. Making a test version seemed like a great idea, especially since the V-neck construction was a bit confusing in the directions. I ended up carefully sewing the raw edge of collar towards the middle on both sides, being extremely careful about not getting the fabric to bunch up. I did not pivot at the tip of the v-neck, but actually sewed a seam on either side, towards the point. Then I finished the seam around on my serger, making sure the stretch was right. The result was better than I expected as the front stayed flat with no puckering.

The rest of it sewed up pretty fast and the fabric was so comfortable, this top has actually gotten a lot of wear this winter.

The sizing ended up being perfect as well and since everything had gone right, I had no fear cutting into my Switzerland fabric. I followed everything the same, but unfortunately…

It ended up being huge! The sleeves were too long, the neck was too wide and it just had a totally different look. I was so disappointed – this was not the sweater I had envisioned. I wanted a cozy sweater that was appropriate for the mountains. This was just an oversized boxy top that was falling off my shoulders.

Well of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone…so I decided to try to shrink it. With a little research, I got the idea to wash it in hot water. I mean, it was so baggy I had a lot of room to play with, right?

Big mistake.

Instead of the sweater getting smaller all the way around, it only shrank up. I pulled it out of the washing machine and realized I was holding a doll sweater. Panicking, I managed to stretch it back out somewhat while it was still wet. But now I had the most expensive crop top I’ve ever owned. How could this go so wrong, when my first attempt came out almost perfect? When I thought about how much money I had spent on this fabric, it nearly brought me to tears.

There is a lesson here that not all fabrics are created equal and the same pattern can behave very differently with a different fabric type. The main issue is that there was no way I would be able to make a test version with fabric that expensive, so it is always going to be a challenge to know how to prevent this going forward. I guess with experience you can start to know the little differences in the fabric you work with. I am not in a hurry to sew with any merino wool in the near future.

I also learned about shrinkage – this time it is about laundry. Trying to make a garment just a little smaller can cause it to shrink up like a frightened turtle. Even though this isn’t the top I envisioned to take me back to the glacial lakes of the Alps, it is still wearable.

This is definitely not a Take Two success story. However, my “take one” has now become one of my favorite winter sweaters in my wardrobe, so I guess it’s not all bad. As for this attempt, the neckline is still too wide and also isn’t as straight as my wearable muslin. Despite this, I did manage to get rid of some of the bagginess and sleeve issues. It’s still a very pretty color. And it still does remind me of Switzerland.

Zurich, Switzerland
September 2019

Take Two for 2022: My little brown clone

My serger is broken.

My plaid jeans project ran into a bit of a snag where I realized I did not shorten the back and front legs equally when adjusting for my height. This created a weird twist effect with the legs and I had to pull it all apart to diagnose exactly what had happened. As I was re-finishing up the crotch seam for the 2nd time, one of my serger needles broke. Then it happened again. I decided to abandon this project temporarily while I still had some needles left As I began sewing up my next project, a pair of lounge pants in a plum bamboo knit, I broke 2 more needles. With the last serger needle in the machine, I decided to quit both of these projects until I could take my machine into the shop, which of course closed two minutes before that final needle snapped.

With my first completely free Sunday in over a month, I was incredibly depressed I couldn’t spend it sewing. Everything that is cut right now depends on that serger. I guess it will force me to cut out a blouse I’ve been meaning to start on.

Even though I wasn’t able to do it for February, I’m still determined to write something twice a month. Luckily there are some projects I had been working on earlier this year that I can share.

Pattern: Rowan by Megan Nielsen

While this shirt was not exactly a re-make of another garment, it was actually an attempt to replace something from my wardrobe that was previously purchased. I have this brown knit mock turtleneck shirt with 3/4 sleeves that I absolutely love. It has to be at least 12 years old and it’s starting to show it’s age. The neck shape isn’t what it used to be and the color is bit more muted. It’s still a big staple in my wardrobe that goes with many things so when I found some brown knit in my stash, I figured I could make a newer version that could be a replacement. I tend to hold on to garments a bit too long, but maybe this new version could help me let go of such a treasured shirt.

This old shirt…somewhat faded but still has some life in it?

I decided on the Rowan shirt from Megan Nielsen. This ended up being a very fast sew, back when my serger was actually working. This is the same fabric I used to make my test leggings from this year, so I got some great use out of it, wherever it came from.

New shirt on the right. Seeing them side by side, you can see the new version is a bit brighter than the original
This new version is definitely more form-fitting, which I think is a good thing

I really like how this came out and it should work for what I made it for: a standalone shirt that works for fall and winter as well as a shirt to wear under some of my favorite sweaters. Nothing too fancy or complicated here – there is some knit interfacing to stabilize the neck and twin-stitching on the bottom hem, but just plain old zig-zag stitching on the sleeve hems. Great pattern – I’m thinking Megan Nielsen may be my new favorite pattern company at the moment.

This is on theme for the year, since I am still replicating and improving on clothes I already have. This is something I hope to do more of in the future as well. What has been your experience with replicating clothing you had previously bought?

Take Two for 2022: The problem with pants pt. 2

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, after a pretty dead and uneventful January. I’ve also been running more now that I have some actual racing goals and motivation. Which is good, since the one pair of pants I’ve been able to finish since my last blog post (part 1) are my Sewaholic Pacific leggings. This was a second test run and I have to say, I like this pattern. These did not come out perfect, but I think they will be wearable enough to take them out on a run. I also did not make the same mistakes with the waistband from part 1, so some lessons learned!

Pinning the gusset to the first leg, these lines really help you know where to sew

I was a lot more comfortable with the gusset portion of the pants. I again followed along on the tutorial on the Sewaholic website. I’m still having trouble on knowing where to clip on the inseam. The photos and explanation just didn’t seem to make any sense to me. I clipped something, not sure it was in the right place. After I sewed the gusset to the first leg, I finished the seams with my serger. This was not in the tutorial, so I was nervous about attempting it, but it worked out really well. I ended up being able to finish the rest of the seams in the same fashion. I then decided to topstitch around the gusset seam, on the right side, hoping it would flatten things out and make it stronger overall.

Still confused on where to clip, I can’t seem to make sense of the directions, but at least it seems to lay somewhat flat
Finishing the seam with my serger – I was nervous but this method seemed to work out really well
Topstitching around the gusset…the jury is still out on this as well
Continue reading “Take Two for 2022: The problem with pants pt. 2”

Take Two for 2022: The problem with pants pt. 1

Patterns:

  • Sewaholic Pacific Leggings
  • Closet Core Ginger Jeans

Few things seem more complicated to me than sewing up a decent pair of pants. I’ve attempted dress pants, casual pants and leggings but I’ve never really successfully made a pair of pants I’ve liked enough to wear all the time. The exception to this is of course pajama pants, but as soon as any complication is thrown into the process, the results are not great. The main issue that comes up is usually fit, as I tend to make things bigger than I need. In some cases I’ve actually lost weight during the process of making them, and they end up just not being quite right.

Project 1: Working out workout pants

I’m in the middle of a couple projects right now, forcing myself to get this pants thing right. The less complicated project of the two is a pair of exercise leggings. I’ve attempted this before which had okay results, but I never really wear any of the ones I’ve made. On my first attempt, I successfully added a back zippered pocket to a pair of Papercut Patterns Ooh La Leggings. It worked but it was never ideal, as the back panel was not well suited for it and my stuff tended to really float around back there. The main issue with these pants was actually the fabric, which didn’t really have much two-way stretch. It was a soft cotton-knit, but unlike what I usually wear when I run or work out. My 2nd version also had its issues with the fabric not being that opaque, so I was always a bit self-conscious wearing them.

These are nice, and I like the pattern, they just don’t quite look like workout pants.

I tried this again with a different pattern, Fehr Trade’s Duathlon pants, which were specifically designed for running and exercising. I really liked this pattern and it was honestly very easy to follow. I used actual spandex this time and they looked like real running pants. I put them on and…they were too loose. I got so scared these would be too small that I didn’t even think of the fact that they are supposed to be smaller than normal because they need to stretch onto your body. Then with all the running I was doing, I lost even more weight and these began to just hang on my body. I can still work out in them, but I don’t feel too comfortable wearing them running and I think baggy spandex just looks too silly.

running pants - final
These are even baggier now than when I first wore them. Definitely my fault, not a pattern fail.

This time it will be different, I swear! The first part is picking a pattern that is the exact design of what I want. This time around I am making Sewaholic’s Pacific Leggings. I love this pattern company as they make patterns specifically for pear-shaped people (like me). This pattern had a version with the back zipper pocket that I’ve come to rely on when I am running. I wouldn’t have to figure out how to add one later. Perfect! And there were options for color blocking. Fun! And it has a gusset. Yes! Or…wait a minute, what?! Okay this was a new one on me which brought all that pants anxiety back. A test pair would be needed before I cut into that new yogawear fabric I bought, to make sure I know what I am doing.

The back pocket looks really nice on this and was not complicated at all.
Continue reading “Take Two for 2022: The problem with pants pt. 1”

Take Two for 2022: The crisscross tunic

Pattern: Butterick B5954

Over the last few years, I’ve not been great at keeping up with this blog. At the start of each year, I have all these intentions for how I am going to start writing again through all my projects, but it always seems tp fall off very quickly. In fact there are dozens of projects I completed in 2020 and 2021 that I have not written about at all.

All that aside, I had a good idea for my blog this year and I really want to stick to it. As we head into another seemingly challenging year, it feels like many of us are in need of a do-over. As my wardrobe expands, I myself have been looking at my past projects and noticing how I could have done better if I had the experience I have now. Therefore for this year, I’d like to focus my sewing around the remake. A take two for 2022.

My goal is to post at least 2 times a month – hopefully more. It definitely helps to reflect after a project is done before diving headfirst in the next project. Maybe this year I can focus just on the writing and not about trying to have that perfect picture or narrative.

My first project of the year had me re-visiting a pattern from one of my earliest days of sewing. I made this top from Butterick (shown below), which I actually still love, back in 2014. This was before I owned a serger, which means it still has all raw edges on the inside that I didn’t bother to finish. I know no one can see the inside, but I know it’s there and it’s not up to my current standards for garment making. The shirt has held up pretty well despite it’s age, but it was made before I understood the basic concepts about working with knits, such as using a zig-zag stitch or how to hem stretchy material.

I got the idea to try this one again when I recently saw someone wearing a similar style shirt. I wondered if this style was back in fashion or at least showing up at some clothing store. This seemed like the right time to try out this pattern again, with hopefully a more professional look.

Continue reading “Take Two for 2022: The crisscross tunic”

Pattern Alteration: Daring to do Diagonals

Pattern: Cake Patterns Cabarita Knit Top

I’m not sure why it was so hard to find a simple pattern to make a chevron-type shirt. I basically just wanted a simple v-neck shirt with this simple diagonal pattern. It probably exists, but I had trouble finding it, until I saw this top from Cake patterns. I actually thought the pictures were showing 2 different views, one with the stripes vertical and another with them on the bias. But after I purchased it, I realized there was only one pattern – one picture was the front and the other, the back. I considered making the shirt as is, since it looked kind of interesting, but I really wanted my chevron shirt. Hoping for the best, I made the decision to cut out the back of the shirt twice, so the back and front were the same.

It actually worked out pretty well. I cut out all four sides of my striped fabric on the diagonal and made sure the stripes matched up. The collar and sleeves are finished with bands, also cut on the diagonal, which made things easy. However, I knew the hem would need twin needle stitching, therefore I used some fusible webbing to keep the fabric stable enough to avoid puckering. The bottom hem is still pretty stiff after a few washes, but at least the stitching looks decent.

I’ve been able to wear this shirt many times, and I really love the look. I made sure to adjust the sleeves, as they seemed a little on the long side. The whole thing sewed up really fast and looks pretty polished with the diagonal design. I think the fabric I chose was perfect as well, as it’s a pretty sturdy knit.

Continue reading “Pattern Alteration: Daring to do Diagonals”

Going Retro: Summer Bra Top

I really love retro clothes, but I never really have time to experiment with them. And when you have limited time for sewing, it pushes me to make more practical outfits instead of something that is more of a novelty. However, during the height of COVID, I did actually get a chance to try out this pattern I had bought for a retro looking bra top. I had this great fabric that I bought years ago – and I was only able to get just under a yard of it. It’s a soft rayon (I think) and I figured I could make a small summer top with it. I had just enough fabric to make View C, which has detachable straps that button on and a flap at the top that hides the buttonholes. The top is also fully lined as well, which helped as this material was a bit on the thin side.

I may need to invest in some high waisted shorts to complete the look with this new top. It was very easy to fit with the two buttons in the back.

Continue reading “Going Retro: Summer Bra Top”

The Eyelet of the Beholder: It’s a 90’s kind of summer

Pattern: McCall’s #6582

When I was young and growing up in the 1990s, I had this white summer top that I absolutely loved, made from eyelet fabric. I wore it for many years until the armpits got discolored and gross. I can’t remember when I exactly retired the top, but I remember trying to find one that looked similar, with no luck. Fast forward to just a few years ago when I found some very soft cotton eyelet material and even though it wasn’t exactly the same texture as my beloved top, it still gave me an idea to try to make a summer top with it.

It was hard to remember exactly what the top looked like, but I remember it buttoned up the front and was cropped very short to show off my midriff. Replicating this would not be possible, especially since I am now in my 40’s and there is no way I would be able to pull off something like that. But I did want to make something cute, so the search was on for a pattern that could make use of this airy fabric.

I found this great pattern on Etsy, a real 1990s style top with that off the shoulder look that used to be pretty popular. I liked the fitted bottom and buttons up the front. If nothing else, I figured this could be a great experiment for the summer.

The V-shape on the bottom section is really what reminded me of my old beloved top. It wasn’t an off-the-shoulder style like this one is, but I do love how soft the fabric is with this new version. In the end I would say this one was a success, even though I probably won’t wear this one as much as my old shirt back in the day. I also need to figure out the right camisole to wear underneath, as this one is definitely pretty revealing up top.

Continue reading “The Eyelet of the Beholder: It’s a 90’s kind of summer”

Top Dog Top: The Vienna Tank Waits for You

Pattern: Itch to Stitch Vienna Tank

It’s fall in New England, but currently it still feels like summer. Since I didn’t have much time for my blog this summer, I thought I would take the opportunity on this hot sunny day in September to write about some of the summer projects I worked on.

I’m extremely proud of this tank top, which uses the Vienna Tank pattern from Itch to Stitch. This pattern was intriguing to me because it uses both knit fabric and woven fabric and I had just the knit that I wanted to use. I found this great wiener dog fabric at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA and I thought it would make a cute animal-themed top. I found some soft black cotton for the yoke and ruffle to complete the garment.

This pattern required knit interfacing to stabilize the arm holes, as well as some stay tape for the pleat down the middle. I knew the interfacing would work well since I had successfully used this technique when sewing up another tank I had made.

Fusible knit interface helps stabilize the arm holes

No crazy twin needles this time, and that was okay by me. I just used a zig zag stitching on the hems. The knit was pretty stable and not too stretchy, so it worked really well with the woven back.

Continue reading “Top Dog Top: The Vienna Tank Waits for You”