Saturday, February 28, 2015

Updates

Checking in with some updates on me and the blog ...

I 'm good , but I have not been sewing. Obviously. Well, not anything worthy of keeping or blogging about. I've had a slew of wadders and the sewjo took a hike. 

I've also been doing some social things with friends the last few weekends, which also cuts into the sewing time. Good for me. Bad for the blog.

And, finally, I've been working on restoring the missing photos around the blog. I've still got a long way to go, but the Coverstitch Stuff is back. The Fly Zipper tute is next also done. I've decided NOT to keep up a separate website/domain and to put everything on the blog so it doesn't take a hike again. It's very slow going but eventually it will all be here. The hardest part was rounding up all the photos from my prior computer and getting them onto a thumb drive to grab from the laptop. That part has been done. Gah ... I really miss my old computer. It still runs Win2K hahahaha!

So that's about it.

In the meantime, I have a new phone finally (LOVING it!) and I'm on Instagram. Find me @stitchesandseamsdeb.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kwik Sew 3764 Done

It's done. I really hope whatever my next project is turns out to be something I like better than the last few. I don't dislike this jacket but the fabric is not going to hold up or be washable and it's actually pretty darn warm, which means it won't get worn a whole lot here in Florida. Plus, the zipper isn't really correct (it's a 2-say separating zip) and it gets caught every time I zip it. There's really no taming the chenille next to the zipper teeth.


When I first made/hacked this pattern, I added a back yoke and CB seam. I decided to keep these when I was retracing smaller.Yeah, you can't see them at all and what you can see looks all off-grain. It's not, though, which you'll see below in the inside shots.


I had thoughts to line this and even cut a lining. But I decided I didn't want to fight with the chenille anymore and besides being a warm layer already, the black inside looks and feels OK without a lining.


I serged most seams with black thread but left the CB seam flat and just serged the raw edges of the seam allowances separately. I also stitched down the back facing. All stitching just sinks right into the chenille so you can't see from the right side that the facing is sewn down.


Here's a closer shot of the back side of the fabric. It's just strange stuff but it definitely feels nice and snuggly.


I skipped the zippered welt pockets. I was already fighting with the main zipper and the chenille and I didn't want to make pockets I'd be fighting with. Instead I added simple patch pockets, which you have to squint very hard to even see in the photo below. I like that they're mostly invisible but still there to hold key cards or my phone.


A wearable muslin, for sure, and at least know I know the new size and minor adjustments fit. I think I'll make this again soon with stretch denim. I really do like the pattern and I do need things for weekends and casual Fridays. A leather version of this or the Style Arc Ziggy or the new Islander moto jacket are still on the must-make list but further down the road. I think I need to hit a thrift store for some leather something to practice with.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What's on Zillie?

Zillie (my dressform) holds my in-progress, or in this case, stalled projects. I liked this fabric because it's all of my colors and a little sparkly too. But it's been in the stash for YEARS and so I'm not entirely sad to be tossing it. A little sad, yes, but onward and upward.


This is the pattern. The problems are there in the photo, if only I had paid more attention. But I wanted to try a different silhouette than my usual. Yeah, no. There is just way too much fullness and fabric at belly and below. Camouflage is one thing. Ridiculous added volume is another. Plus the way the print "landed" is also unfortunate.


From the side ... can you see how much width this thing adds? Would make an awesome maternity tent. ;-) Needless to say, I won't be finishing this one. And you won't be able to convince me otherwise.


Next up is KS 3764.


I'll be finishing this one, if only as a wearable muslin until the fabric disintegrates. Which, I'm guessing, won't be too long from now. This is also years-old stash, bought from a co-op. I think it's really cheap upholstery fabric. It's not a knit. Just a bunch of chenille on an open-weave kind of backing. Weird stuff. And I have purple too.


But the last time I made this KS pattern, I hacked it to make a RTW knock-off and I was much bigger than I am now so I had to trace smaller and start somewhere. Cheap upholstery fabric is as good a place to start as any.


It will be OK as a muslin. I really would like to make a leather moto jacket sometime soonish (like before 2016?), but I have no idea where to get good leather or how many hides I'd need, etc., etc. so that project will be a while before I even start. And then bright, shiny will likely distract me for a while along the way too. Maybe I can get Peter to shop leather for me??

I'm planning to finish the jacket this weekend and hopefully make something else that I actually like. The week whoooooshed by with the Monday holiday and I'm happy to be heading into another weekend. Maybe I'll even get through a few things on my list.

Thanks for all the very nice comments on my last post about the sneaky way to fix a gaping neckline. I'm not brilliant, though  ... just doggedly determined not to surrender. Hah.

A few personal notes ...

The job is still going splendidly. I really like my workgroup and what we're doing. No, it's not a creative design job but the money is the same and it's 100% stress/drama-free. At this stage in my life, that's much more important. I can be creative on my own time, right?

I've started looking for a new place for Alex and me to live. I love my city neighborhood and my 7-minute commute but this house and my landlord have major problems that can't be solved by me. I'm not in a hurry this time, so it may be months before anything actually happens on that front. But if you hear of any great Tampa rentals, let me know.

Not sure I mentioned it earlier, but the Marine was promoted to Sergeant. He's doing well but looking forward to getting out in 3 years. He has other life plans and wants to get at them. At least he's now only 6 hours away so we'll see each other more often between now and then.

I'm also now a quasi-grandma. My stepson and his girlfriend had a baby boy last week. Alex is beyond thrilled about being an uncle. I'm hoping to see them all soon. They live on the other side of Florida, about 3 hours away. I just need to figure out dog care. Alex's dad will be coming from VA to meet his grandson in a couple of weeks and Alex will drive over then to see them all.

And that about rounds out what I've been up to. And, Susanna, I haven't forgot you. Just slow-going around here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fixing a gaping neck, after the fact

So you've just sewn your knit neckline/neckband carefully and correctly and STILL end up with The Gapes, like this:


And then you end up with a big case of The Mehs when you had such high hopes for a cute top/dress using that pretty fabric you just bought (or sacrificed from the stash).


Well first, stop beating yourself up. It happens to all of us and doesn't make you a sewing failure. Sometimes bad things just happen to good fabric and/or techniques. Next, get yourself some elastic thread, like this:


And a big-eyed, blunt-end needlepoint needle, like this (the blunt end is important so you don't snag the fabric and make a difficult task of threading the elastic through):


Cut a LONG piece of the elastic thread, roughly 2-1/2 times the length of the neckline area you need to fix, stretch it a couple of times, and thread your needle with it. Then, push the needle under the stitching that's holding down the neckline/neckband, starting at one shoulder seam.


Make sure you get the needle up into the space above the stitches, like threading elastic through a casing (which is pretty much exactly what this will end up as). Work the needle/elastic through the whole length of the gaping area and leave a long tail on the end you started from (this is why you need to use a long length of elastic).


Push the needle out at the back of the other shoulder seam and into/through the serger stitches (or seam allowances if you haven't serged) of the shoulder seam, and ...


... tie a knot. Make sure your knot is behind the shoulder seam, since you've pressed those to the back (right?) and want any elastic tension to pull toward the back.


Next, go back to that long elastic tail you left at the beginning and pull the elastic taut enough to cause rippling but not enough to create actual gathers. The neckline isn't going to lay flat now, but that's OK because it *will* lay flat on you.


And tie it off at the starting shoulder seam, again behind the actual seam. (If you leave your needle threaded while you do this, getting through the loops of the knot is easier.) Finally, unthread the needle and trim your thread tails.


Now be happy again because your new top/dress with that fabric you can't believe you just "wasted" is now a keeper! Look Ma! No gapes and ...


... no gathering.


I won't tell anyone if you won't. ;-)

This little fix works for front necklines/neckbands too. Just run your elastic through the front instead of the back and make your knots in front of the shoulder seams. If you need to fix back AND front, do it in two steps, using two lengths of elastic (or 3, if you have a vee or wrap neck) so you can keep the "drawing up" effect of the elastic separate, which will work better than one long piece of elastic thread doing all the work in different locations.

You're welcome. :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

First Make of 2015 - Meh


I sewed up this skirt and top 2-piece dress last weekend and while it's OK, it's not fabulous. Part of the "meh" is because the fabric is just not a nice ITY. I swear, Fabric.com labels everything ITY now and I'm starting to think they're on crack. It's an OK knit, but it's certainly not one of their better ones. It's a bit on the sueded/clingy side. Not *too* clingy, but more like collapsing on me, if you can understanding what I mean. Hard to explain. Still, it's better than the uber-clingy, pill-y, icky rayon crap I'm still trying to get out of the stash. ;-) I like the print, though, which is why I went ahead and used it, ignoring that little voice in my head.

The other part of the "meh" is because apparently *I* was on crack when I was sewing up the Jalie top. A top, mind you, that I have made 6 squillion times. Let me tell you, it makes a HUGE difference if you sew RS together where the gathers flip over instead of WS together. Heh. It took me nearly a whole day to figure out why the flip-over wasn't working and where I had gone wrong. (Note: When all else fails, READ the feckin' instructions!) Once I got out the seam ripper and re-sewed correctly, things worked out fine. But what an idiot moment I had.


Plus, the neckband, sewed on with my coverstitcher and a binder, isn't snug against my back neck, which never happens with my binders. Until now apparently. I'll fix that with some elastic thread threaded through the backside stitching, once I pick it up from Hancock's. I just covered it up with a cardi in the meantime. I won't tell if you won't.


Love the skirt though. I used the Simplicity KA pattern above, which is a semi-circle skirt for wovens and calls for a zipper. I omitted the zipper because knit. And I also took off 2" from each side seam of the smallest size in the envelope, 20 (for a total of 8", if you're counting), because, again, knit. I didn't just do this willy-nilly ... I have a couple of semi-circle RTW knit skirts I was copying inspired by and so I could use them as eyeballing/measurement guides. I used the contoured waistband pattern pieces (also cut down 2" per side seam to match the skirt waist) and sewed all the units together, leaving an opening in the facing for inserting elastic, and serged 1:1 onto the skirt waist. Once it was attached, I inserted the 1-1/4" wide elastic, which was cut to about 4" less than my actual waist measurement. The result is an elastic-waist pull-on skirt with a waistband that sits flat both on and off me. I didn't even stitch the opening closed on the inside because I had the seam allowances from the opening folded/flipped in such a way that the opening and elastic is invisible from the inside. I know that's hard to visualize from my words, so you'll just have to trust me on that.


I know the skirt will get lots of wear since I love the shape and black/white is almost a neutral. I think I'll make it again in another knit too because it's fun to wear flippy, girly skirts. I also think I'll like the top better after a few small adjustments ... namely, the back neckband, and maybe shortening it another inch and also sewing the sideseams a little tighter.

I've also sewed up a "muslin" of the Burda WOF casual pants I showed a couple of posts back, and am now trying to decide what fabric to get for a final pair, plus matching jacket. I thought a nice ponte would work, but now I'm second-guessing. My "muslin" was a NOT-nice ponte (also from crack-tastic Fabric.com in the same shipment) which was not supposed to be muslin fabric but it was way too polyestery/shiny to be taken seriously. I could have sent it back but I decided I did need to muslin since I haven't sewn pants in years (yikes) and it's probably a good thing I did because I do need to make a few adjustments. All of that was just a long-winded way to say that while the project is definitely still in the queue, it's stalled at the moment.

I'll get into the sewing room this weekend around football playoffs, but I may encounter analysis paralysis since I have a lot of things I want to make and no idea where to start. Hopefully, I'll come out with something. I just don't know what that something is yet.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Top Fives (or Sixes)


As you probably already know, the lovely Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is again hosting the Top 5 series, aka The Yearly Roundup. (Click on that link to Gillian's blog to see the other bloggers participating and don't forget to include a link to yourself if you recapped. I noticed more than a few blog links missing.) It took me a LOT of time last year to pull everything together so I almost didn't want to do it again this year but I always enjoy everyone else's round-ups/reflections, so ....

The good news is that compiling this 2014 recap was actually easier than I was anticipating. The bad news is that's because my sewing output for 2014 SUCKED. Hah. But I completely understand why and it's not really that big of a deal ... now.

Before I get to the sewing, my biggest "miss," as I'm sure you can all guess, was unexpectedly losing my job this past April and in the middle of a house move, and my biggest "hit" was finally becoming a permanent, salaried employee at my current job. This job and the last are, as they say, as different as night and day and it's so easy to see that everything happens for a reason, well, at least when you're viewing the reason from your rear-view mirror. :-) I like this job and my coworkers very much and the firm treats us all very well. Yay me for hanging in there through it all (and Yay! for your support), but I have to say that I HATE being poor (who doesn't?) and I'm so glad to be past that speed bump. I've learned that nothing is forever, and I really hope that I get to be the chooser of any job changes from now on. But since I have no crystal ball, I will be once again building up the savings account. Cuz you just never know.

So onto the sewing stuff. I went through my 2015 blog posts and pulled photos in no real order of what I made during the year. It's funny how the "misses" coincide with job/situational unhappiness and once I was settled in here at the new job, I made more keepers.

I still like this SBCC Mimosa top and hate to tag it as a "miss," but the truth is it doesn't get worn very often anymore because it has to be ironed, and even then, it wrinkles so much during wear so it looks like it needs to be ironed before I've even finished wearing it for the day. I would like to replace it with a wrinkle-free poly version or another less iron-needy fabric.

SBCC Mimosa - original blog post here
I hate this dress. But just THIS dress, not the pattern mix I did to come up with it. The fabric just isn't right. I've only kept it because I would like to try again with a better fabric. It also kind of reminds me of the Colette Dahlia, which is weird because I don't really like the Dahlia.

Pattern Mix/Hack - original blog post here
I've never worn this one. The print just isn't right for the style and the neckline doesn't want to cooperate so I know I'd be fussing with it constantly. Need to donate it and just move on.

McCall's 6752 - original blog post here
Another fabric fail. First, the fabric is that horrible cheap rayon knit from Fabric.com that so many of us fell for. Second, I'm not liking the weird "lines" of the print. Worn once and now collecting dust. Another donation candidate.

KS4026/Broke Woman's Myrtle - original blog post here
The cardi ultimately is a fail, even though I love the color. I don't like the length/width combo and the sweaterknit fabric is not cooperative with the back neckband. I was inspired by the Muse Jenna cardi and am much, MUCH happier with the real pattern. The skirt was a test for a pattern which I've never seen released. Hmmm. I like the skirt but it's another item which needs serious ironing.

Jalie cardi hack - original blog post here
Finally, some winners. Whew! I was getting worried there, and no wonder that on top of everything else in the beginning of the year, the sewjo took a hike.

This dress I wear. All. The. Time. Since these pics were taken, I shortened it to hit at my knee instead of below it. It works for both summer and winter. I need 10 more.Think anyone will notice?

Muse Gillian - original blog post here
Another Muse. You will see there is a theme starting here. Kat, hurry up with the next one. :-) I'm so glad to have my beloved teal skirt back in rotation since making the Muse cardi and KS tank twinset. The weather has been warm/cold/warm/cold even moreso than usual lately but we're heading into very cold this week and this set will definitely see an outing.

Muse Jenna #1 and KS 2759 - original blog post here
Another Muse cardi which is another hit, and the Butterick skirt I dubbed my Carolyn Corporate Skirt, also a hit. I need more of both of this and the above skirts.

Muse Jenna #2 and Carolyn Skirt (B4877) - original blog post here
My HotPatterns Uptown/Downtown sweaterknit dress.This dress is so comfortable and I like how it pairs with nearly anything, especially the matching Muse cardi above.

HP Uptown/Downtown - original blog post here
And the summer version here, which I also wore a LOT.

Original blog post here
Speaking of summer (and sunburns?), I also wore this dress often during the warmer months. It's funny how the interlock version was one of my biggest misses from 2013 yet a remake in other fabrics is a 2014 hit.

Vogue 8805, original blog post here
The skirt below is an unknown. I haven't worn it yet. Not because I don't like it but because I forgot about it. Hah. It inadvertently got buried in the sewing room. The mind is a terrible thing to ... er ...what was that? ;-)

Simplicy 1697 (skirt) - original blog post here
And last chronologically, but certainly not least ... my Muse Natalie dress. When I first saw the pattern lines I never would've guessed how much I would end up liking the dress. It gets worn at least every 10 days. I try NOT to wear the same dresses each week, but sometimes I sneak favorites in because I don't think anyone else is really keeping track.

Muse Natalie - original blog post here

Here's to kicking 2014 in the ass to the curb and welcoming 2015 with open arms! Happy New Year!


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I'm still here, I'm still here! December has flown, January is flying (Happy New Year!), and I'm still behind on life. I've got a couple of posts in the works, but I'm so overdue on picking the winner from the giveaway post that I'm just going to stop and do it.

Congrats to Nursebennett!!


Please email your shipping details to me at dcook100 at gmail dot com, so I can forward the info to Trudy and Jeremy at HotPatterns who will be shipping direct to you.

I don't think the Curvy Sewing Collective has drawn the winner yet either, so good luck to all who also entered there!

Thank you again Trudy and Jeremy! You're the best!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

About Me


I'm Debbie Cook. Welcome to my blog. I live and work in Tampa, FL, and I'm Mom to 2 grown sons, one a U.S. Marine and one still living at home. I'm also adopted mom to 2 very cute and very spoiled pooches. I put up with the oppressive Florida humidity and ravenous mosquitos as a trade-off for sunshine and warmth nearly every day of the year.

I love to sew, but I didn't know it until I was more than grown up. My mom and grandmothers sewed my whole life and while I never had real lessons from them, I found out later that I had actually learned a lot just by watching and helping. With these "custom dressmakers" available, I never felt the need to sew for myself or sit in front of my own machine unless I was mending, hemming or sewing on Boy Scout badges.

Fast forward to my late-30s and the sewing bug finally bit and I haven't stopped since. I've sewn almost everything - home dec, quilting, gifts, lingerie & more, but sewing clothes for myself is what I really love and I sew most of my wardrobe because I have fun doing it and because it fits me better than anything I'd find in a store.

I stash fabric and patterns a LOT, and I seem to be collecting vintage sewing machines too. I use everything though, so it's all good, right?

I like to share what goes on in my sewing room and some of what goes on in my enjoyably-boring life. I've been blogging about it all for almost 10 years now.

I try to answer questions and comments when I can, but honestly, I'm pretty bad about it. I'd rather spend my free time in the sewing room or trying new-to-me restaurants. There are just never enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do!

email me at dcook100 at gmail dot com and find me on Instagram @stitchesandseamsdeb

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reappearing briefly ... and a Giveaway

First, before we get into this post click this link and enter the CSC giveaway running in connection with my review there of the Hot Patterns Uptown/Downtown Knit dress. It ends at midnight EST tonight. HURRY!

Then, leave a comment on this post to double your chances because Trudy and Jeremy have also generously gifted a second copy of this great pattern for a giveaway here. I will do the drawing sometime this weekend. Probably Saturday, but with Christmas and all, I'm not promising. As long as the comments are still open on this post, the giveaway is still open.

OK, back to this post.

I am SO behind on everything. The Marine (Tyler) arrived last week, unexpectedly, and I kind of just threw my hands up and decided to have fun with him instead of honoring obligations. He changed bases and is now 8 hours closer for the next 3 years. Yay! He left Thursday but he'll be here again this Wednesday for the long Christmas weekend. Double yay! It had been 9 months since I had seen him and it was such a treat to have so many days with him. Plus, Alex was at his dad's in Virginia last weekend which gave Tyler and I some alone time. We did lots of stuff, none of which involved my sewing room. Hah.

But I did reacquaint myself in there this weekend and with my old BWOFs, and traced a couple of patterns to make a "track suit" for weekend wear. I'm sorely lacking in casual clothes at the moment.


Even before starting, I didn't forget what a Royal PITA it is to trace BWOFs, which made me procrastinate throughout the whole process, but both patterns are now traced. And that's all the "sewing" I've done lately. I would MUCH RATHER tape together a hundred PDFs. But, as I was looking through the magazine inserts, I saw so many patterns I want to make. Even TEN YEARS later, many of these BWOFs are fashionable and so much more interesting than most of what's out there in printed or PDF patterns. Sigh. No pain, no gain, right? Looks like I'll need to invest in some Swedish Tracing Paper.

Here's what I'm making, hopefully.





And proof that BWOF/BS loves to recycle ... does this one look familiar? Actually, I think this pattern is older and the one I did trace is the "newer" version. I may get some motivation to lay out my tracing over this pattern sheet and really compare.


Now, go enter the giveaways! I'm hoping to be back here briefly before Christmas, but if not, Merry Merry to everyone!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pattern Testing and Review: Muse Natalie


This is the pattern I mentioned I was testing, the latest offering from Muse, aka what is becoming my new favorite indie pattern company. Not because I received two patterns for "free" (quotes because testing isn't really free to me, or any tester, when you account for time, materials, etc. but I know that and volunteered with eyes wide open) but because I really like what I've seen and sewn from Muse so far. And I did buy the Jenna cardigan pattern with my own money so it's not all fluff and unicorns here. :-)

This dress is Natalie. Side note ... although I've heard/read grumblings around the interwebs about the practice among indies of naming patterns instead of or in addition to numbering them, I actually prefer the names. I can NEVER remember a pattern number (especially if they've been reissued), but I always remember the names. So names over numbers gets a thumbs-up from me and my forgetful brain every time. (You can also read about the inspiration for the Muse pattern names when you click over to the Muse site.)


This pattern testing cycle was pretty much like the last testing I did for Muse. I was given a preview of the pattern to see if I would be interested, along with a schedule of when to have my testing finished. No photos were required but I caught a nice day on a weekend after finishing the dress so I've had these waiting for this post. At first, I wasn't sure about this design for me and volunteered to only review the instructions, PDF print-out, cutting layout, and pattern pieces. But then, being the fickle sewist I am, I decided to just go for it, figuring nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I'm glad I did. I like the final dress a lot.


It's definitely a very feminine dress and my curves probably make it a little more so, but, hey, I've got curves. I have worn it to the office and while the vee is low, it's not work-inappropriate low. I also wore a black cardi over the dress in the office. Because office air conditioning.


The dress falls like an empire waist but wrong side out on Zillie below you can see that it's not really an empire at all. There's a triangle inset, gathering at bust and CF (optional at CF), and diagonal seaming down the front. The neckline is finished with a mitered attached band and was sized perfectly to fit the neck opening and lay flat on the body underneath. The back is cut on fold. Truthfully, I kind of wish there was some cool seaming at the back too and I contemplated adding at least a CB seam when sewing this, but laziness over pattern matching won over. And this print is cool/busy enough so any more seaming would've been lost anyway.


I cut a straight 44 with no adjustments except to square the shoulders (my usual) while cutting out the pattern.



It fits perfectly, no FBA needed due to the gathers and diagonal seams. For a next make of the dress, I will add 1-1/2" to the length because while the pattern is drafted for a 5'10" woman (yes!), it would have been shorter than my preference on my 5'5" self if I had hemmed it more than a smidge. So I cut a shaped hem facing instead. I could have just turned up a 3/8" hem but I prefer a deep hem on drapey knits so they have some weight. The sleeves, on the other hand, were much too long for me. I cut off about 2" and still hemmed them with a 1-1/2" turn-up. But that's to be expected if the fit model is 5'10", no? Better too long than too short anyway. The dress was cut out and sewn in one day. It's a fast project.

While testing, I noted some corrections and slight improvements to the pattern markings and cutting layout and I think every one of them was incorporated into the final. I thought the pre-release instructions were fine as-is, with no corrections needed, although other testers must have had suggestions since the release notes mention those changes being included too. This tells me that again Kat, the designer behind Muse, listened to her testers and adjusted her pattern and release schedule to make necessary changes. As a tester, it's gratifying to know that the testing does matter and we're not here for just a happy shiny blog tour to sell patterns.

I'll state it again, I was NOT asked to post this review or any photos. What I'm writing and showing here is by my own choice. I like the pattern and my final dress. If you like it too and want to buy it, that's your choice. I get nothing if you do, or if you don't.

Now if you do decide you're interested, the full sale price, less transaction fees, of all Natalie patterns sold during the first week of launch (December 8-14, 2014) will be donated to the Wellington branch of the Cats Protection League and you can get 15% off the Natalie pattern during launch week with the code NATALIE. A win for the kitties and a win for you.

I have a few projects running through my mind that I want to tackle soon so this will be it for me and pattern testing for a while. Stay tuned for my overly ambitious to-do list. ;-) I hope the sewjo holds up.