SWAP sewing – first three tops

I’ve been down with a wicked cold but that hasn’t stopped me from sewing. In between the gallons of tea and regular doses of cold medication, I was thinking and sewing spring. Ha! Take that, silly cold!

Tops 1

This is yet another adaptation of my favorite pattern, M6355. I just love it. The fabrics are black Sophia double knit, white Swiss 4-way stretch (from Gorgeous Fabrics – it’s a fabulously smooth nylon/acetate/lycra jersey), and the striped knit is a cotton interlock that’s been waiting patiently in my stash for years.

I took the pattern for my colorful dresses and shortened it to about the high hip level. I left off the collar and just turned the neck edge under, topstitching with a twin needle. I really love how easy it is to use a TNT pattern. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever use another top pattern again.

Up next is the red top and red dress. The fabric is in the washing machine as I write this. I hope to have pictures to share by the end of the week.

See you soon!

SWAP 2015

Occasionally over the years, I’ve planned a neat-looking SWAP and even made a few pieces, but I’ve never actually completed the whole thing (as far as I can remember, anyway). The closest I came was in in 2004, when I made three skirts and six/seven knit tops (seven sewn but one was a wadder).  I have photographic evidence, hehe.

This year, I need some basics. Simple shapes, easy color scheme, that kind of stuff. I’m going with red, white, and black. Most of them are already in my fabric collection.

SWAP 2015 fabrics

A little bit of analysis of my previous SWAP attempts leads me to believe that my best bet this year is to focus on one silhouette and make multiples of only a few patterns. So, I’ll be making pants – it’s time to update my pant pattern to a narrower leg and adjust the length to somewhere near the ankle so they will work with both heels and flats. I’ll make three pairs: black, white, and red.

To go with the pants, I will make five tank tops: black, white, red, white/black stripe, and white/red stripe. I was completely wintered out by Christmas so all this sewing will be with spring and summer in mind. I am almost always cold so layering is important. That said, I do not like the feel of two sleeves inside one another so my preference is for a sleeveless top with a long-sleeved cardigan. The five tank tops should give me a pretty good start.

SWAP 2015 plan

The other three items in the SWAP are wildcards and those will be two cardigans and a dress. The two cardigans are RTW that need a little refashioning. One is solid black, the other black with white polka dots. I plan to cut them shorter, reshape the neckline, and add white trim like I did on the red one. The dress will be solid red and sleeveless.

I am actually going to limit myself to just two patterns – one for the pants and one for the tops and dress (both of these patterns are TNT).  I am hoping this will help eliminate any analysis paralysis so that I can just sew. Let’s see how well it works.

See you soon!

Happy New Year!

Yikes, it’s been a while. Not much time to sew in the last few months, even less to blog. But things are normalizing and I have a fairly reasonable plan for a red/white/black SWAP, so there will be sewing and blogging on a regular basis.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Yang Gamine, Flamboyant Gamine… huh?

Remember the refashioned cardigan? My custom-painted scarf arrived and the weather cooperated so I can show you how it all looks.

Outfit 1 comparison

On the left is how I wore it last winter. On the right is how I wore it today. Makes a difference, doesn’t it? And it’s not just the cardigan. Did you notice the earrings? I am wearing ones you can actually see, hehe. Wearing more and bolder jewelry is one of my new style goals so be prepared for more of it.

The jewelry is only a part of my new style direction. You see, I have recently had a consultation with Rachel Nachmias of Best Dressed. She helped me understand where I fit on the yin-yang continuum and sent me a personalized pdf with recommendations plus visuals in the form of a private Pinterest board. The visuals especially are priceless. The keywords for Yang Gamine (or YangG) are bold, contrasting, fitted, structured, and cheerful. Today’s outfit was my first attempt.

Outfit 1 accessories

Scarf or pearls or both? Do you have a preference?

Yang Gamine. Flamboyant Gamine. High-spirited essence. Different names for the same archetype. The youthful, playful, spunky, ball of energy type, with twinkling eyes. That’s me. And I’m going to learn to dress the right way so that my clothes and accessories tell my story. Lots of sewing coming up, hehe.

See you soon!

New sewing space

The move is done and the boxes are all unpacked. Yay! I still have a batch of cardboard sitting in the garage waiting to go to the recycling center and there’s some reorganizing still to do, but for the most part, things are in their place now. My sewing space is once again on the main floor, which is awesome. Let me show you:

Sewing space 1

You can see the couch in the left lower corner here. The couch is where my husband likes to hang out, playing the Playstation or reading. We like being in the same room even if we’re not doing the same thing so this arrangement is perfect for us.

Sewing space 2

Please excuse the undressed dressform. Maybe I could make a robe or something for her to wear in between projects. And matching covers for the sewing machine and serger, maybe?

Sewing space 3

The coverstitch machine is now living behind the doors of the cabinet on the left. I just need to buy a 110V surge protector before I can use it. (The other machines run happily on 220V.) The two compartments with gray roll-doors hold fabric. Maybe about 25% of my collection. The rest is upstairs, neatly stacked on shelves in the storage room.

Sewing space 4

My little bit of sewing-related decoration – it used to belong to my grandmother. Both the treadle and the needlepoint cover. I added the decorative things on top. Pretty cool, eh?

New jeans

In one of the recent wardrobe posts, I wrote that the wear-at-home side of my closet needed its own capsule. And it does. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that the need is dire and I have taken the first step to fill the gaping hole. I’m thinking two pairs of jeans and 4-6 tops. I’m starting with the jeans because I wanted to try Angela Wolf’s pattern.

Jeans - Front view

My measurements are between size 4 and 6 so I went with the 6. I wanted a straighter leg so after adding ⅛” to both the inseam and side seam at the knee (to match an old favorite pair), I dropped both seams straight down to the hem. Then I tested it in muslin. Muslin doesn’t stretch so this was a stand-up only pair but it was enough to show what other adjustments were needed:

  1. I took out ¾” from the upper edge of the yoke at CB, tapering to nothing at the side;
  2. I added ¼” to the inseam at the crotch level on both front and back, tapering to nothing about 8″ lower;
  3. I scooped the front crotch curve ⅛”.

Then I cut it in stretch denim to make a wearable prototype. That’s what you see in these pictures. For this particular pair, I taped the back yoke to the jeans back piece – there’s no shaping involved, just a straight line, and no grain change either so this was okay and it allowed me to position the pockets higher. I omitted the belt loops because the stabilized curved waistband will stay put without the help of a belt.

Jeans - Back and side view

I am not too keen on the amount of wrinkling on the back of the legs. I’ll see if I can fix some of that in the next version. Otherwise, I am pretty pleased. The pattern has very detailed instructions, which I followed almost to the letter. I used regular white Metrosene for both seaming and topstitching. No doubled thread here. I think it shows just fine. The serger was threaded with blue from a previous project so I just used that. I opted for a contrast waistband facing, using the same bright green quilting cotton that lines the pockets and serves as the fly shield.

Jeans - Closeups

I’m not entirely sure about the stretch denim. It feels weird, how it moves with the body. I think I prefer regular non-stretch denim. There should be a few yards coming in the mail soon. That said, this pair is perfectly wearable for around the house.

There’s so much more I wanted to tell you but the words aren’t coming because my brain is ready for the movers. They’re coming tomorrow. It’s a local move so somewhat less stressful than our usual transatlantic move but still far from fun. I expect to be unpacked and fairly functional early next week. And now I’m off to pack up my machines because I don’t want anybody else’s paws touching them.

See you soon!

Cardigan refashioned

As I had mentioned in one of the recent wardrobe posts, I had a red cardigan that needed a bit of refashioning. It was nice, I mean it’s cashmere and soft and feels lovely, but it was also kinda boring. Okay, really boring. You know, the kind of cardigan that looks perfect on a tall, classic, elegant woman. Which I am not. I am a yang gamine so that cardigan was not speaking to what John Kitchener calls my “high-spirited” essence. Ha! No problem. At least, it’s nothing that a good pair of scissors and some double fold bias tape couldn’t fix.

I present to you, my refashioned cardigan:

Before and after

It looks even better worn with a simple black dress and a jaunty scarf.

It started out life as a regular Land’s End cashmere cardigan. I took it in a total of 2″ at the waist, cut off the buttons, buttonholes, and bottom ribbing, and turned the neckline shape into a V (or is it Y?). The bias tape is cotton – the leftover Kona cotton from my husband’s quilt. I finally used the super-duper Clover bias tape tool that I bought years ago and now that I’ve seen what awesomeness it does, you can bet there will be other bias tape projects in the future.

See you soon!

Wardrobe from scratch – part 3

We left off having completed step 13, the second round of accessories, and had what looked like a reasonable wardrobe. I mean, I probably could have stopped there and done just fine. But there are more steps in Janice’s plan so let’s work through them.

Step 14 is leisure wear. In other words, clothes to wear at home. This is a good place to add some colorful pizzazz. I already have the two pairs of pants – one is a cotton woven wide-leg style, the other a stretchy knit yoga style. I’d need to make the two tops. In reality, I need a separate capsule for homewear so I will leave these out of the subsequent slides.

Step 14

In step 15 we’re adding a versatile dress, an accent cardigan, and a pair of shoes. Janice made them on the warm weather side, with sleeveless dresses and sandals. I already have a dress in this wardrobe plan and it’s a long-sleeved one so I’ll add a sleeveless one here. I was debating between a really neat black and white houndstooth and this solid black one. The black one won because I already own it. I really love the idea of a houndstooth dress though so it might make an appearance next year. We’ll see. No sandals for this fall/winter wardrobe. Instead, I’m bringing in my knee-high boots – they’ll see plenty of wear. Rounding out this selection is a red cardigan, which I already own. It will require a slight refashioning but it’s definitely serviceable.

Step 15

In step 16, Janice looked for a “core of four” in each of the neutrals – two tops and two bottoms that can make four outfits. I can do that with the black pieces. The gray capsule only has one bottom so I’m going to add another skirt here but not in gray. I won’t wear gray pants so there’s no use putting them here and the only skirts I wear are pencil style so adding another gray pencil skirt won’t lend this wardrobe further versatility. But a black and white houndstooth skirt would be perfect here.

Step 16a

I am also seriously short on white items so I’ll add a white sweater and a white cardigan. I don’t own any of these three items and will have to make them.

Step 16b

Below I included the three new pieces so the white section looks more in balance with the rest. It’s starting to look like a really large wardrobe but there are only 23 garments and that includes two coats.

Step 16c

This wardrobe is just about done so in step 17 we add some finishing touches. Let’s take another look at the garments in the picture above to see if there are any obvious holes. Janice is aiming at 24 pieces. I’m good with what I see, but will add a black leather skirt and a ribbed V-neck sweater because these two together were one of my favorite outfits last year. The black short-sleeved tee shirt looks like an anomaly here, among all the sweaters, but for now I’ll keep it. We’ll see how it works out in real life.

Step 17a

I have separated the clothes from the shoes and accessories to get a better idea of how things look. I think the wardrobe is looking pretty good now.

Step 17b

Step 17c

In step 18, Janice checked her wardrobe plans against her Common Wardrobe to ensure nothing was missing. The Common Wardrobe has too many pieces I wouldn’t wear so instead, I’m using this step as a reality check. First, there are two dresses and five cardigans I’d wear with them. It sounds like ten different outfits but in reality it’s only five different looks because the sleeves or lack thereof under the cardigan won’t make any difference. Depending on the weather outside, there will really be only one reasonable dress choice on any given day.

Then there are six bottoms and nine tops that work well with them. Each top goes with at least two bottoms so that’s another 18+ outfits. I also have the black T-shirt here but the chances of it being worn without a cardigan on top are practically nil. There is a bit of crossover between the two groups in that I might wear the pants and jeans with the white shirt or the black T-shirt and a cardigan, but we’ll see how realistic that is.

Step 18

So, pretty decent wardrobe plan, I’d say. I’m going to give it a try this fall/winter and see how I fare. There are a few pieces in this wardrobe that I will need to make or buy:

What to make and buy 2

Pretty cool, right?

See you soon!

Wardrobe from scratch – part 2

In the previous post, I left off at step 7, with enough garments and accessories to get through at least two weeks without completely repeating an outfit.

Step 7

I thought in this post I’d get through the rest of the steps but, umm… no. It will require at least one more post. It takes forever to find just the right picture, in just the right color, and just the right shape, to represent what I have in my wardrobe or want to add to it. Let’s just say that going through this exercise, I have gained a whole new appreciation for the work Janice does on The Vivienne Files.

Anyway, moving on to step 8, we’re going to add two tops and a necklace. I chose a light gray cashmere jewel neck and a darker gray cotton blend turtleneck, both of which I already own. The necklace is my peridot torsade.

Step 8a

Step 8b

In step 9, we add a skirt with a top and shoes. In Janice’s lineup, this is the first skirt and fairly formal and the blouse is on the formal side as well. As in, “important occasion”. I already have a formal-enough gray skirt in this wardrobe  and tops that work with it, so I’m going with polka dots and bright color. I’ll need to make both of these pieces (and my fall 6-PAC is starting to take shape). The shoes are a pair of Ecco maryjanes I already have.

Step 9a

Step 9b

In step 10, the idea is to up the casual factor in the wardrobe and so we add a casual jacket, top, and shoes. I already have a black parka and a pair of black Keds. I’ll have to make the sweater (probably knit rather than sew).

Step 10a

Step 10b

Step 11 is where we start adding personality to the wardrobe, although I think I might have started on that earlier with the polka dot skirt. Anyway, here we add a complete outfit – three pieces that work together. Some of Janice’s variations show a three-piece outfit, one shows three pieces that can be paired together in two different ways. I chose the latter and added a dress, a cardigan and a shawl. I wouldn’t wear the cardigan and the shawl together, but each works well with the dress. I already have the long-sleeved black dress and the green shawl. I’ll have to knit the cardigan.

Step 11a

Step 11b

In step 12, we’re looking for an attractive, versatile winter coat. My 12-year-old black coat is getting threadbare and will require replacement soon so I chose this red double-breasted one because I like the shape and the details. When I make it, the trim will be black to match the buttons and it may have a hood so it’s more practical in rainy/snowy weather. The boots are my existing Ecco, and I’ll knit a black or dark gray cowl to keep my neck warm.

Step 12a

Step 12b

Step 13 is round two of accessories. It calls for another handbag and because I don’t actually like to change handbags day-to-day, I chose to add a tote that already lives in my closet. It’s very useful for carrying larger items that don’t fit in the handbag. Then two pairs of earrings, a necklace, a brooch, and a bracelet. I’m not much of a bracelet person but I think I would wear this one. I already own the peridot earrings and the starburst brooch, and I’ll need to buy the red earrings and necklace, and the green bracelet.

Step 13a

Step 13b

It’s getting pretty crowded there but there are still a few more steps to go. I’m liking the look of this wardrobe very much, and especially the fact that I already have most of the pieces. My sewing and knitting plan is shaping up quite nicely (I’ll make the garments and purchase the jewelry). I’m sure I’ll have to add to it in the steps that follow, but here’s how it looks right now:

What to make and buy

How are your wardrobe and/or sewing plans coming along? Please share in the comments.

See you soon!

Wardrobe building from scratch

Janice over at The Vivienne Files has been posting awesome articles about wardrobe building for years. Her latest series, Starting from scratch, is pure genius, beautifully illustrated and with excellent explanations of what, why, and how. There’s also a very lively discussion related to her articles on the Stitcher’s Guild. I’ve been waiting every morning with bated breath to see what the next step brings. Last night, I decided to see how it would look in my own wardrobe and what I might need to sew this fall and winter.

The first step is a pair of dressy pants. I already have one. It will need to be replaced soon but for now, it will do.

Step 1

Step 2 is a versatile, comfortable pair of shoes. For me this would be my Ecco Kiev. I love them.

Step 2

Step 3 adds a cardigan and a tee shirt. I have these already.

Step 3

Step 4 adds jeans and a shirt. Jeans in the neutral color, which means I’d have to make them. So I’ll be on the lookout for some nice black denim. The shirt already lives in my closet.

Step 4

In step 5, we add accessories: handbag, earrings, watch, bracelet, necklace, scarf – whatever works. I’m not big on wearing bracelets so I didn’t put one here, opting for a necklace instead.

Step 5

Step 6 adds accent color tops (one each) and a scarf. I already have sweaters in these colors so I added them. Janice shows tops that can be worn under cardigans, which I might try in a future version of this. The scarf is also one I already have.

Step 6

In step 7 we add a top and bottom in the second neutral, and a pair of shoes. Janice shows a pair of pants but I prefer skirts so that’s what I chose. I would need to make this. For the gray top, I have a cardigan that will work well. Janice shows the shoes in the second neutral color but all my shoes are black and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, so I added a pair of Munro pumps I already own.

Step 7

Now we take a brief pause to see what outfit options we have and whether this is the direction in which we want to go. I put these together and I like them, although I don’t really like sleeves on sleeves so the white shirt with a cardigan is not my favorite option. I’m not sure if I want to rethink the white shirt or just not worry about wearing a cardigan with it.

Wardrobe building pause

And this is as far as I’ve gotten for now. Janice has plenty more steps and I’ll work through them in the next few days. I want to be ready with a good plan when the fall 6-PAC sew-along starts on the Stitcher’s Guild.

Are you following along with Janice’s posts and looking at your wardrobe with new eyes? Please share in the comments.

See you soon!

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